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Mall of Georgia deemed safe after phone threat of timed explosives

Police say the caller claimed there were multiple explosive devices planted at the mall.

BUFORD, Ga. — One of Georgia's largest malls has been deemed safe after someone phoned in a threat of explosive devices inside.

Gwinnett Police spokesperson Cpl. Michele Pihera said that Gwinnett police, deputies and firefighters responded to the Mall of Georgia at 3333 Buford Drive after the threat was called in around 1 p.m.

"I was told that the threat came into a mall kiosk - probably their customer service desk and that customer service desk then relayed the information to us," she said.

Police didn't initially announce what the threat was, but after having officers search every single store and deem them safe, they said the caller had said the caller claimed there were multiple explosive devices placed in the mall.

"Even the small businesses that are maybe one suite wide and we're also checking our anchor stores," Pihera said. "Everybody's getting the same amount of searching regardless of their size or their amount of visitors."

During the search, police also had their helicopter flying the parking lot looking for anything that may be suspicious.

Police said that the caller claimed the explosives would detonate three hours after the call.

"I don't know if this threat was as credible - we haven't received any information to corroborate the threat," Pihera said. "All we received was a phone call and that person gave us some specific information but we have not found any corroborating evidence to go along with that threat that was made."

During the search, police said they worked closely with mall management who made the decision to keep the location open despite the bomb threat.

"Because this is not an active crime scene event, the mall management have complete authority on whether or not the mall gets shut down or not," Pihera said.

11Alive reached out to mall representatives on why they chose not to evacuate customers, but they did not respond with a comment.

While police said they didn't find anything suspicious tied to the threat, police did detain one person who they stumbled upon during the investigation.

"As our officers were doing a methodical search, they found somebody who was inside one of the vacant movie theaters," Pihera said. "They confronted that individual and he was not cooperative with our verbal commands and because of that, he was detained."

She added that it's not clear if that person will face any criminal charges, however, he isn't believed to be connected to their threat investigation.

The massive response involving at least three county agencies comes just days after two mass shootings in separate parts of the country that left many dead and many more injured. But Pihera said their response was not unlike how they would handle a similar threat even before these tragedies rocked the nation.

"I think here, with the Gwinnett County Police Department and working so closely with the sheriff's office and a lot of our city agencies and the fire department, we have the personnel to respond to incidents like this," she said. "So regardless of what was happening in our nation in Ohio and in Texas, I think that they would have probably had the exact same response."

Police are now hoping anyone with information about the caller will step forward and help them find that person.

Anyone with information on the case can call the Gwinnett County Police Department's detectives at 770-513-5300. Tipsters can also provide information anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477 (TIPS). The investigation is listed as Case Number: 19-072257.

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