Grand Forks Wal-Mart evacuated after threat of gunman
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- About 100 Wal-Mart employees and patrons evacuated the south Grand Forks store late Sunday after a threat of a gunman.
Grand Forks police and sheriff’s officers blocked off access to the Wal-Mart at 2551 32nd Ave. S. shortly before 9 p.m. It is the same store that saw a fatal shooting in late May.
However, in this case, it appears the threat may have been a hoax, as no gunman was found in the store, which reopened about 5:30 a.m. Monday.
Police initiated its emergency procedures, including the evacuation of staff and customers, immediately after the call came in at 8:47 p.m., Lt. Bill Macki said.
Witnesses said police told them the caller demanded $2,000, threatening there would be a shooting.
Numerous officers and law enforcement vehicles, including special operations and SWAT trucks, arrived. Three hours later, police said they were not sure if a threatening person ever entered the store.
"At this point, it does not appear an actual threat was present within the store," Macki said early this morning.
A caller reportedly told an employee he was in the store with two hostages and that he had a gun. He allegedly demanded money and threatened to harm a hostage if he did not receive the cash. He also allegedly threatened to kill a hostage if any police officers entered the store.
The Wal-Mart customers and employees then were evacuated to an area behind Sam's Club, located next door. They were allowed to retrieve their vehicles before 1 a.m. Monday.
While the evacuations were underway, a SWAT team escorted detectives and management to an area of the store where they could view store surveillance video, Macki said.
The Wal-Mart location has been the target of other crimes.
Marcell Travon Willis, a senior airman who had been stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base since February 2013, walked into the same Wal-Mart shortly after 1 a.m. May 26. Wielding a 9 mm handgun, Willis, 21, shot two Wal-Mart employees -- Lisa Braun, 47, was injured and Gregory Weiland, 70, died. Willis then shot at a third employee but missed before turning the gun on himself.
Willis died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.19 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
That incident is still under investigation.
In June 2013, a bomb threat -- which turned out to be a hoax -- was called into the store, which was evacuated and closed for several hours.