Polk County mall explosions caused by flares, not IEDs, FBI says

No one injured after two explosions

By Dawn Jorgenson - Graham Media Group, Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

POLK COUNTY, Fla. - People at the Eagle Ridge Mall were evacuated Sunday evening after two flares went off in a corridor, officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said the Lake Wales Fire Department was called to the mall at 451 Eagle Ridge Drive responding to an alarm. Firefighters found smoke coming from a corridor next to JC Penney and discovered an improvised explosive device that had detonated.

Firefighters said they found a backpack in the same corridor containing other possible explosive devices.

The FBI said Monday that there is no indication of any terrorist ties to the incident and that the explosions came from flare devices, not a homemade device, as originally reported by the Police Department.

"There is no indication of any explosion at the mall and no pipe bombs were found," a statement from the FBI said. "It appears two items, believed to be marine flares, were ignited in a mall hallway, creating a large amount of smoke, and a backpack was located at the scene. Bomb technicians examined the contents of the backpack and determined it did not contain any incendiary or explosive devices."

Deputies reported no injuries, but said there was damage to a ceiling and possibly a corridor wall.

The Sheriff's Office said based on witness information, officials are now searching for a person of interest who is white, middle-aged with a heavy build, and wearing a gray shirt and gray hat.

The Lake Wales Police Department has begun a criminal investigation into the incident.

The FBI is assisting local authorities in the investigation.

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