South Hills Village OK'd for re-entry after threat
Bethel Park police evacuated South Hills Village mall and took a man into custody there Sunday night after he made a vague bomb threat, officials said.
The suspect, Frank Zahler, 70, was charged with risking a catastrophe, terroristic threats and threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction. He is awaiting arraignment Monday.
Witnesses said the man with long, gray hair, walked into the Barnes and Noble store about 6:15 p.m. and made reference to having bomb-making materials in his bag, according to a statement released by mall management.
The suspect then walked out of the bookstore and into the mall, eventually taking a seat inside the Red Robin adjacent to the food court, said Bethel Park police Chief John Mackey.
Police were called about the man's statement and responded, taking him into custody at Red Robin and removing his bags from the restaurant to the sidewalk outside the food court. The Allegheny County Bomb Squad was called, and technicians checked the suspect's two duffel bags, a metal briefcase and his car before determining nothing he had posed a threat, Mackey said.
“Just the mention of a bomb or bomb materials this week, it made people nervous and they called police,” he said.
Witness Scott Ross, 36, of Bridgeville said he and his girlfriend were waiting for their food at Red Robin when the man came in, and he immediately struck them as unusual.
“He was struggling to take his sweatshirt off; you know, pulling his T-shirt off with it... then he just sat there, doodling on his napkin or something,” Ross said.
Police officers soon came into the restaurant and quietly took the man into custody, Ross said. A few minutes later, management asked everyone to leave the restaurant via another entrance to the mall, away from the food court.
By 6:30 most of the mall had closed, Mackey said, but employees and customers of the Red Robin, Carmike Cinemas, Target and Barnes and Noble had to wait from the edges of the mall parking lot until the bomb squad finished.
The packages were determined to be safe and people allowed back to their cars shortly after 9 p.m. Mackey said the man was taken into custody by Bethel Park police, who would determine charges later. The man, who Mackey said lived in a neighboring community, had been asked to leave another establishment after acting disorderly this month.
Several suspicious packages around the region have brought responses from the bomb squad this week in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or email@example.com.
Add Matthew Santoni to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police stop car in Beltzhoover, find body in back seat
- Medical examiner identifies man in Pleasant Hills police standoff as Justin Hay
- Federal grand jury indicts man for violating poultry law while operating illegal slaughterhouse in his Jefferson Hills home
- Pa. police departments worry order on criminal seizures hurts bottom line
- New Turnpike Chairman Sean Logan institutes Wolf’s gift ban at commission
- Pa. Turnpike claims software fraud, wants $45M
- Woman, 77, dies in Monroeville house fire
- Veterans Affairs settles another Pittsburgh-area Legionnaire’s lawsuit
- Pipelines key to growth in shale industry
- FTC chief Brill calls on companies to protect privacy online
- Fitzgerald nominates mining industry businessman for Finance and Development Commission