FBI: 2 flares ignited at Florida Mall, not pipe bombs

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Police have released pictures and video of two people of interest after two items that the FBI believes were marine flares were ignited at the Eagle Ridge Mall on Sunday.

“There is no indication of any explosion at the mall and no pipe bombs were found,” said the F.B.I.

At 5:22 p.m. on Sunday, firefighters responded to a smoke alarm call that turned into a structure fire call at Eagle Ridge Mall at 451 Eagle Ridge Dr.

The F.B.I. said the ignited flares created a large amount of smoke. They were ignited in a service corridor near the J.C. Penney store. Authorities said the corridor is near a loading dock where deliveries come in, so shoppers were out of harm’s way.

No one was hurt, but there was damage to a drop ceiling and the mall was evacuated as a precaution.

Police say two people of interest were seen in the area around the same time the two flares were lit. They have released pictures of both people and video of one.

A large backpack was left at the scene. The F.B.I. said bomb technicians examined the contents of the backpack and determined it did not contain any incendiary or explosive devices.

There is no current indication of any terrorist connection to this incident, according to the F.B.I.

The F.B.I. is coordinating and assisting the Lake Wales Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office as the

investigation continues.

Police are looking for a man who was seen running away from the mall. Witnesses told detectives they saw a middle-aged white male with a heavy/stocky build running away from the scene. He was wearing a gray shirt and a gray hat. He is now considered a “person of interest” in this case.

Anyone with information on this man is asked to contact Lake Wales Police Detective Whitney Dukes at (863) 678-4223 or Heartland Crime Stoppers at (800) 226-8477.

The Eagle Ridge Mall reopened on Monday.

“We are extremely grateful to the first responders and security personnel who acted quickly to ensure the safety of our guests, tenants and employees,” said the Eagle Ridge Mall in a statement released Monday.

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