Waterford Lakes Town Center evacuated over suspicious devices

4 devices found at Orlando shopping plaza, rendered safe

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Waterford Lakes Town Center has reopened on Tuesday afternoon after four suspicious devices were reported, prompting an evacuation of the mall, officials said.

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The devices, two of which were described by deputies as backpack-like packages with wires protruding from them, were discovered Tuesday morning, prompting officials to evacuate more than 20 businesses at the Orlando shopping plaza, including a day care. They were later deemed safe.

The third suspicious package was found near a deputy patrol car ended up being a bag of tools and the fourth, which had a cylindrical object, were both determined to no longer be suspicious.

More than 60 children were removed from First Friend, and deputies said parents can pick up their children at the movie theater in the plaza.

Deputies told Local 6 reporter Kala Rama that devices were found behind some stores, including Best Buy and Ulta.  (Follow Kala Rama on Twitter at bottom of page.)  Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs' office said at least one device appeared to be strategically placed beneath a vehicle.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said his office first received a report around 8:15 a.m. about a suspicious device at the nearby Victoria Place apartments.

"We then received three more calls about suspicious devices or packages," said Demings, who added that two of the devices have been cleared. 

Bomb technicians continued to work on the other two packages, which were also rendered safe.

"There's a heightened sense of awareness in our nation now because of what happened (in Boston)," said Demings, referring to the bombing at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 250 others.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office and firefighters are conducting an investigation.

"That is what we pay law enforcement to do, that is job number 1, public safety," said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. "How expensive was that, we can compare that to not being prepared."

Federal and state law enforcement authorities will also conduct an investigation, Demings said.

"We ask the public if you see something notify us, we work through it, better safe than sorry," Demings said.

Local 6 spoke to some of the businesses affected by the evacuations and some said they reopened about three hours later, while others did not.

"It's tough to get in a state of wellness when you're on edge, when your scared," said Dr. Brent Baldasare of Affinity Health and Wellness Center, who gave his employees with a paid half-day vacation and will reschedule his appointments.

Most business owners Local 6 spoke to said they were impressed with how quickly law enforcement got to Waterford Town Center, investigated and cleared the scene.

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