• 2 persons of interest sought after flares ignite at Lake Wales mall

    By: Chip Skambis , Steve Barrett


    LAKE WALES, Fla. - The Lake Wales Police Department is searching for two persons of interest after two marine flares were ignited Sunday evening near the entrance of the JCPenney store at the Eagle Ridge Mall.

    Firefighters responded to reports of an explosion at the mall on 451 Eagle Ridge Drive around 5:20 p.m.

    Firefighters initially said that an improvised explosive device had been detonated in a corridor next to the JCPenney entrance.

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    The FBI later determined that there was no explosion and no pipe bombs were discovered. It also said that the incident doesn't appear to be terrorism related.

    "It appears two items, believed to be marine flares, were ignited in a mall hallway, creating a large amount of smoke, and a backpack was located at the scene," said Andrea Aprea, an FBI spokeswoman. "Bomb technicians examined the contents of the backpack and determined it did not contain any incendiary or explosive devices."

    Police released surveillance video of a man walking through JCPenney and an image of another man.

    Person of interest in Lake Wales mall incident
    Person of interest in Lake Wales mall incident
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.
    Person of interest in Lake Wales mall incident
    Person of interest in Lake Wales mall incident
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    “Both of them, now, we’re calling a person of interest,” said Lake Wales Deputy Chief Troy Schulze. “We don’t have any witnesses that have said they’ve seen either of these two people do this. But they were both seen right in that area, leaving in a hurry.”

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    A witness who called 911 told Channel 9 that she heard a fire alarm sound and saw orange smoke billowing from an object.

    The mall was evacuated. No one was injured, but a ceiling and a wall were damaged by the flares, officials said.

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    Detectives said they will review surveillance footage recorded at a jewelry store in the mall.

    The incident remains under investigation.

    Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Lake Wales police Detective Whitney Dukes at 863-678-4223 or Heartland Crime Stoppers at 800-226-8477. 

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