UPDATE: Whitehall Township police Chief Michael Marks says in a late Friday night news release that a suspect was taken into custody after being located near a mall entrance. The suspect is not being identified at this time, Marks says.
The chief gave the following account of the incident:
“About 6:30 pm on Friday … Whitehall Township police officers responded for a report of a male who made bomb threats in the area of the Lehigh Valley Mall. The suspect was located in the vicinity of the mall entrance. The area around the mall was cordoned off for safety reasons. Lehigh County MERT (Municipal Emergency Response Team) along with the HNT (Hostage Negotiation Team), arrived on scene. After a dialog was established with the individual, he was eventually taken into custody without incident. The scene was cleared for explosive devices, without any being located.”
The Allentown Fire Department’s bomb squad responded Friday night to the Lehigh Valley Mall at the request of Whitehall Township authorities, Capt. John Christopher said.
Township police couldn’t immediately be reached for details on the threat on the retail property, which is temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The initial call for a bomb threat came into Lehigh County emergency dispatch at 6:33 p.m., a supervisor said.
The city bomb squad was called in on a mutual aid request, Christopher said.
A special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Philadelphia said the agency was contacted but then told to disregard when “local police determined the individual did not possess any explosives.” The investigation was continuing, but the ATF won’t be involved, the special agent said.
It was unclear if an arrest was made at the mall or if the incident was ongoing at 9 p.m. The Morning Call reported on Twitter that an ambulance left just before that.
Bomb threats were checked out Friday night on the Eighth Street bridge in Allentown and Harrison-Morton Middle School at 137 North Second St. in the city, police Capt. Bill Lake said. Both locations were determined to be safe, Lake added. He couldn’t immediately connect city incident with the threat at the mall in the township.