Suspicious suitcase at local store prompts evacuations, highway closure

(Photo by Don Smith)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) The discovery of a suitcase that appeared to contain an explosive device leaning against a pump at the Valero store at State Highway 84 and Speegleville Road prompted mandatory evacuations and highway and road closures, but police say the device was not a bomb.

An attendant called 911 after discovering the suitcase at around 8:45 a.m. Monday at the store, which is near River Valley Intermediate School at 4750 Speegleville Rd. and the Heartis Assisted Living Center at 5317 Speegleville Rd.

Authorities sounded the all-clear at around 10:25 p.m. Thursday.

Swanton said the contents of the suitcase appeared at first glance to be “some type of explosive device or spoof explosive,” but the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad determined it was actually a device that’s used to track underground utility lines.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara says authorities aren’t sure who left the device at the station, but speculated that it might have been a customer who filled up at the station and forgot the case.

“It’s about a $1,000 piece of equipment,” he said.

Students at the intermediate school and residents of the assisted living center sheltered in place, but officers went door-to-door in a 500-yard radius of the station to instruct residents to evacuate.

The affected area included the Hidden Valley and Twin Rivers subdivisions.

“Our officers responded and determined that this was enough of a significant incident that we needed to start immediate evacuations of the immediate area,” Swanton said.

Evacuees were directed to the Harris Creek Baptist Church or the Fellowship Bible Church in the immediate area for shelter.

Highway 84 and Speegleville Road were closed to traffic until authorities determined the suitcase did not pose a threat.