Bomb threat prompts evacuation of Janesville Mall
JANESVILLE—A bomb threat closed the Janesville Mall for a brief period Saturday evening, but the incident will likely leave a more lasting impression on some shoppers.
At 5:40 p.m., the Janesville police responded to the mall at 2500 Milton Ave. for a report of a bomb threat made via Facebook.
By 5:55 p.m., the parking lot entrances to the Kohl's and Sears stores were blocked by Janesville police cruisers. Employees were gathered in groups in the parking lots in front of the stores.
Customers had been evacuated from stores, and most of them had left. Meanwhile, police searched the perimeter of the mall.
Janesville resident Shar Hermanson and her 15-year-old daughter were shopping at Boston Store when the incident occurred.
She and several other customers were taken into a loading dock area, the door was closed and the lights were turned off.
“The employees were told that there was a security risk,” Hermanson said. “But they didn't know what it was.”
As she sat in the dark, Hermanson wondered what was going on.
“We knew the gates of the Boston Store (going into the mall) were closed,” Hermanson said. “We didn't know what was going on. We didn't know if somebody was inside of the store with a gun, or maybe there was somebody in the mall with a gun.”
About 40 people, including the employees, were in the loading dock area with her.
“Given what's happened, given what's going on right now, you literally don't know…” Hermanson said before trailing off. “You don't know, and that's the part that's bad—it's a scary situation."
Just Friday, an armed gunman walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and killed three people and wounded nine others before he was arrested. The world is still reeling from coordinated attacks in Paris and Mali.
Hermanson estimates that they were there for 30 minutes.
Then the manager came in and asked people to leave the building and go home. Employees were asked to go to their cars and wait for more information from the manager.
Hermanson and her daughter went immediately home.
The mall reopened at 7 p.m.
The incident remains under investigation.