Salem Road Walmart Manager Ron Tillman gets an update on the bomb threat at two Covington Walmart stores which proved to be a hoax. It took several hours and numerous personnel to clear the store and make sure it was safe for employees and customers. - Staff photos by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON — Both Walmart stores in Covington and Newton County were evacuated Wednesday morning after the 911 Dispatch Center received a call stating there was a bomb “in the Covington Walmart and you have an hour to find it,” according to Newton County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Tyrone Oliver.
Spokesmen for the Newton County Sheriff’s Office and the Covington Police Department said it was unclear which store the caller was referring to so both stores were evacuated.
After an exhaustive search of both stores, no device was found.
“Both the Newton County Sheriff’s Office and the Covington Police Department were notified,” said Sheriff Ezell Brown, adding that personnel from both agencies were at the stores on Industrial Boulevard and Salem Road throughout the morning, working to clear them so they could reopen for business.
“They are scanning the stores to determine if there’s any kind of device,” Brown said while the investigation was taking place.
NCSO spokesman Lt. Keith Crum later said that the store manager of the Salem Road location had followed Walmart’s protocol for this type of situation and law enforcement personnel responded to the scene to assist in making sure the store was clear of any threat.
“There were no suspicious packages discovered inside or outside,” he said, adding that a bomb-sniffing canine from DeKalb County Police Department had gone through the store and discovered nothing.
The store reopened for business around 2 p.m.
CPD Chief Stacey Cotton said the threat came in around 11 a.m.
“We’re treating it as we normally would for any bomb threat. We can’t determine until we get in there and take a look at it if it is real … At this time we don’t have any information that leads us to believe any device is there,” he said Wednesday morning during the evacuation.
CPD spokesman D.J. Seals said a canine from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Industrial Boulevard location and helped clear the building. The store resumed operations a little after 1 p.m.
“We appreciate the work of local law enforcement and their quick response,” said Walmart spokeswoman Kayla Waling. “Once we were notified of a potential threat, we closed as a precautionary measure while local law enforcement surveyed the store. Once that was complete and they said it was safe to resume business, we were able to reopen for customers. We don’t hesitate to close a store out of an abundance of caution in a situation like this. Our priority is making sure our customers and associates are safe.”
The investigation into identifying the caller is ongoing.