A 42-year-old New Castle man is in police custody after he threatened to blow up the Union Township Walmart store around 1 p.m. Wednesday, Union Township police reported.
The store was evacuated of employees, shoppers and all of the shopping carts after the man, who police said was irate, made the threat in front of a store employee. The store management called the township police, and an officer located the man in the electronics department and arrested him, according to police chief Mark Julian.
The police took him to UPMC Jameson Hospital for a mental health evaluation, and charges are pending against him, pending his release from medical care, Julian said. His identity is being withheld until charges are filed.
Meanwhile, close to 50 store employees were clustered nearby on the lawn outside of McDonald's, while police from multiple jurisdictions searched the building for possible explosives. Lawrence County sheriff deputy John Baldelli escorted his explosive-sniffing canine, Baki, through the building.
One employee, who refused to give her identity, said the workers were just instructed to leave the building and were not given any details about what was going on.
"No one left, at first," she said, and some of the employees "we had to nearly force out the doors."
Shoppers who arrived during the search expressed curiosity about why they weren't allowed to go inside.
The store was closed for nearly 90 minutes while police and the dog searched the building. The dog did not hit on anything that was a threat, Julian said, and the store was cleared and reopened by 2:30 p.m.
No other business in the plaza was evacuated.
"We evacuated the store because we didn't want to take a chance," Julian said. "We take those things very seriously."
The man didn't threaten anyone personally, he said. "He just said he wanted to blow the store up."
The New Castle and Shenango Township police departments and the state police assisted Union Township officers in searching the building, and local fire departments and emergency medical services were on standby.
Ambulance attendants at the scene talked to the man while he was in custody, Julian added.