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Man charged with threatening to bomb East Liberty Target

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By Margaret Harding
Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 2:27 p.m.

What motivated a man to carry a full gas can into the Target in East Liberty on Christmas Eve and tell an employee “This is a bomb threat” remained unclear Thursday, Pittsburgh police said.

“He might not even know why he did that. We don't know if there was one motivating factor,” said Zone 5Cmdr. Timothy O'Connor, whose district includes the store.

But given the recent theft of data connected to 40 million Target customer credit and debit card accounts, Officer Christine Scalise wrote in a criminal complaint that she thought a bomb attack was possible. Target said last week that hackers stole customer data between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

Gary Parker, 65, of East Liberty is charged with risking a catastrophe, using a facsimile weapon of mass destruction, terroristic threats, and possessing an incendiary device. He remained in the Allegheny County Jail under a $20,000 bond. Court records did not list an attorney for him.

Parker walked into the Penn Avenue store about 12:40 p.m. Tuesday carrying a one-gallon gas can. An employee told police that Parker yelled, “You better call the police. This is a bomb threat.”

The employee notified store security, who alerted the security manager and Scalise.

Parker paced the lobby of the store with the gas can when Scalise walked up to him, she wrote in the complaint. She said she could smell ignitable liquid and that he asked her where he could find the Citizens Bank.

Scalise said she walked him to his car and watched him throw the gas can into the trunk. She told him he could drive across the street to the bank, and walked him from the parking area.

She walked back to his car and when Parker returned, Scalise arrested him. The car had to be aired out because of the “heavy, pungent smell of ignitable liquid,” she said.

Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or

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