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Police Chief Terry Eilers, Hubbard County investigator Colter Diekmann and Sheriff Cory Aukes discuss strategy inside Coborn's grocery store Thursday. (Sarah Smith / Enteprise)

UPDATED: Bomb threat closes Park Rapids grocery store

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Law officers barricaded a downtown Park Rapids grocery store for several hours Thursday after a hoax bomb threat was called in. It may be related to the latest Jamaican scam.

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According to Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers, a male caller phoned Coborn's about 10:15 a.m. and told the receptionist, "I have some serious news."

The caller went on to say a bomb had been placed in "the Western Union box" near the store's courtesy counter.

The receptionist said, "Are you serious?" and placed the call on hold.

It then went to the store manager, who asked the same thing, Eilers said. He was told the bomb was set to detonate "in three hours," roughly 1 p.m. He called police.

The store was barricaded and closed as police officers and several members of the Hubbard County Sheriff's Department, including Sheriff Cory Aukes, descended on the building. The Law Enforcement Center is just down the block.

"We ended up tracking back, the telephone company called back and they'd done a circuit dump on all their stuff and they gave us an area code and partial phone number from Jamaica," Eilers said. Police are investigating a series of Western Union money transfers to Jamaica from the store.

But officers had a dickens of a time closing the popular grocery store.

"You wouldn't believe the people who came in," the chief said. "I knew Coborn's was a busy place but I didn't know they were that busy.

"They drove around the barricades, they drove around our squads. You'd tell them they had to come back at 2 and it's like the end of the world," he said.

"'Well I can't! It's coupon day! What am I gonna do with these?'" Eilers paraphrased the arguments he heard in the parking lot.

One persistent woman drove around both the barricades and Eiler's car blocking access to the parking lot and parked in the "pole position" by the front foors. The parking lot was empty.

Eilers was dumbfounded.

"I said, 'The store's closed but I just gotta ask you a question," he asked the woman. "A barricade with police tape on it and a squad car with a uniformed officer in it blocking the parking lot, the parking lot is empty, what do you think that means?' And she goes, 'Well I don't know.' And I said, 'Do you want to take a guess or anything?' And she said, 'Probably the store's closed.' and I said, 'You're right!'

"I told her, 'You have to leave' and she asked if she could just sit in the parking lot. They said it's a bomb and if it blows probably the front doors are going to go and you're parked in front of the doors. That's why I'm parked over by the street," Eilers told the customer.

"I told her, 'It's up to you. You can park over here by me but the best thing would be to leave.'"

She complied.

The store reopened at 2 p.m. Eilers said a bomb squad was not called in.

"Western Union doesn't even have a box in the store," he said. "All it has is an envelope display."

Once again customers were clamoring to get back into the store.

"It's like no big deal," the chief said. "Stuff like that happens every day in Park Rapids. Oh God. I'll tell ya. She came back. We even had some come back early because the store was reopening at 2. They asked if they could sit in the parking lot until they're (store personnel) ready to go."

That kind of customer loyalty is hard to shake - even with a bomb.

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Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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