A suspicious briefcase found in a parked car emptied the Beverly Center mall yesterday afternoon. The shopping center, at La Cienega and Beverly Boulevards across the street from West Hollywood, was closed for several hours while the bomb squad came in to investigate and detonate the briefcase.
The incident caused chaos during the busiest part of the shopping weekend, especially as the official announcement urging the evacuation was not well heard by the mass of shoppers.
One of WeHo News’ readers called to tell of the confusion. He and friends were eating lunch on the top floor of the structure when they heard a muffled announcement and witnessed the restaurants closing drawers, pulling down protective shutters and running for exits. "Someone running past us said there were shots fired," Jeffrey Melman told WeHo News. “That really scared us. But someone else told us there was a fire. It was pretty confusing and people didn’t know where to go.”
The cause of the uproar turned out to be a report by a man who had parked his car on the first floor parking garage. Upon returning, he found the car moved to another spot and that his briefcase, too, had been moved to another area of the auto.
According to Los Angeles Police Capt. Lillian Carranza, this man told officers on the scene that he was involved in a personal feud and feared for his safety. She said that statement raised the issue to a higher level of concern. After consulting with the mall security, the decision was taken to evacuate the mall of its roughly 1,300 patrons and employees and to dispatch the bomb squad.
The bomb squad used a robot to detonate the case at 4:30 pm and, after using bomb sniffing dogs to clear the area and the mall, allowed people back into the mall at about 5:00.
The situation is under investigation, but authorities do not consider the reporting individual as a suspect. They are going over the security footage for clues.
People who parked in the mall could not access their vehicles between the hours of noon and five, causing many of them some distress.