LIMA — A suspicious package found outside a restaurant on Lima’s east side Monday morning led to the evacuation of four businesses and caused a major transportation artery leading in and out of the city to be closed for 90 minutes.
In the long run, there was no damage to any of the businesses, and a thorough investigation was launched in an attempt to learn more about the contents of the package.
Allen County’s bomb squad was dispatched to the Bob Evans restaurant at 1810 Harding Highway shortly before 10 a.m. Monday after the sheriff’s office received a call an hour earlier alerting authorities to what Sheriff Matt Treglia described as a “suspicious device” the caller had reportedly spotted beneath a bench outside Bob Evans.
Treglia said the Allen County Emergency Management Agency was dispatched to the scene, and further investigation by authorities “gave immediate concern” to first responders.
“It was a cause for severe concern,” Treglia said. “It was substantial enough for us to turn this over to the bomb squad.”
The bomb experts arrived on scene, and within an hour a robot had been deployed to detonate the suspicious package. Members of the public who had gathered across the street and members of the media were ordered back more than 500 feet from the restaurant for their safety. A loud boom could be heard as the robot fired its activation device. Authorities would not discuss what the package contained, pending a thorough investigation.
“We followed specific protocol” in deploying the robot, said Allen County EMA Director Tom Berger. “We use all our technology to survey this kind of situation.”
Declining to offer specific information about what the robot had detected, Berger said the investigation “is still ongoing.”
Treglia said the incident has been turned over to detectives in his office and noted that any evidence retrieved will likely be sent off for forensic testing. It could be days or even weeks before more information is available, sheriff’s department officials said.
After the threat had been deemed credible, emergency crews evacuated employees and patrons from Bob Evans as well as nearby Burger King and Panera Bread eateries for their safety. Guests at the adjacent Motel 6 were also asked to temporarily leave the premises as the events of the morning unfolded.
Traffic on state Route 309 was closed between Interstate 75 and state Route 117 before 10 a.m. By 11:25 a.m., the area was re-opened to traffic. A police dog sniffed the area for clues, and the scene was cleared at 11:30 a.m.
Treglia said the events that unfolded Monday morning were “a great scenario for our ‘See Something, Say Something’ campaign.”
“It was very important for us to get this right,” the sheriff added.