Bill Holscher of Vinings was inside the store in the Cumberland Festival shopping center at 2980 S. Cobb Parkway by the Galleria Centre just after 3:30 p.m. when someone described as a “disgruntled customer” came into the store and made a comment that someone took as a threat.
Officer Mike Bowman with Cobb Police described the upset customer as a 37-year-old white man with an Atlanta address.
“Witnesses reported that he allegedly made statements about having a bomb,” Bowman said.
Police were contacted immediately, apparently by the store staff, and the man was still inside when they arrived.
The man, whose name is not being released, had a backpack or briefcase when he was taken into custody.
“The Cobb County K-9 bomb dog and the Cobb County Bomb Squad arrived on the scene, assessed the situation, sent in the robot to retrieve the item … and rendered it safe,” Bowman said.
Police blew up something in the corner of the Cumberland Festival shopping center near a tall, concrete wall.
“They used the concrete wall on both sides as a buffer,” Bowman said.
But whatever that something was, it was not a bomb, or anything illegal, Bowman later confirmed.
“The item that we rendered safe was not an explosive device,” he said.
Bowman declined to say what it was.
The man was later released without any charges being filed.
While all of this was going on, customers in the almost 20 stores in the strip mall and nearby restaurants and businesses on the west side of Cobb Parkway were cleared out.
Bowman said they shut down north and southbound traffic on Cobb Parkway between Akers Mill Road and Riverwood Parkway.
“When the robot came and did his thing, we moved everybody behind coverage, behind cars and buildings across the street in the (Akers Mill Shopping Center),” he said.
Cobb County Police and Georgia State Patrol Troopers helped with the road closure.
Holscher said he never saw the suspect in the store before police arrived but he did recall what happened after they showed up.
“I had my back to the front door when I heard police near the front entrance telling someone to get down on the ground,” he said.
About four officers had their guns drawn and pointed at the suspect.
“The guy was slow to get to the ground,” Holscher said. “He looked very passive … didn’t do what police told him to do immediately. They were speaking very loudly and firmly to him.”
He said it took about 15 minutes to handcuff the man.
During this time, Holscher said AT&T employees helped get customers to the back of the store.
Holscher said there were about 25 customers and employees in the store at that time and the store manager, who declined to give his name, said he had around 15 employees working during that time.
“It was actually pretty calm,” Holscher said.
It wasn’t until after police got the customers and employees out of the store and cleared the shopping center that Holscher learned more about what happened from employees. He wasn’t able to leave the scene because his car was parked in front of the store.
“One of the employees said they heard the suspect say, ‘Somebody’s going to die,’” he said.
They stood in the Barnes & Noble bookstore parking lot, which is about 300 yards north of the AT&T store and at the corner of Akers Mill and Cobb Parkway, for about two hours.
Police let customers and employees return to the stores and opened Cobb Parkway back up to traffic around 5:45 p.m.
Wednesday evening Bowman said the man, who had been taken into custody, had been released without charges.
“The witnesses that thought that they heard something when the investigators talked to them and finished their investigation, they determined that there was not anything there to charge him with so therefore he was released,” Bowman said.