Hoax devices evacuate Lowe's store

By Lisa McDonald, Assignment Editor, lmcdonald@wkmg.com
Published On: Apr 19 2014 12:55:20 PM EDT
Updated On: Apr 21 2014 09:07:28 AM EDT
Lowes
LEESBURG, Fla. -

A Lowe's Home Improvement store in Leesburg was evacuated over the weekend because of a suspicious device in the parking lot.

Leesburg police said they were called around 9:45 a.m. Saturday to the Lowe's Home Improvement store at  9540 U.S. Highway 441 about a suspicious male subject located near the outside of the lumber department entrance. 

Police said they made contact with the man, later identified as 56-year-old James Edward Hilliard.

Police said Hilliard was sitting on the curb just outside the entry doors leading into the lumber entrance and he was applying duct tape to what appeared to be a Molotov cocktail.

Police said the device was described as an item in the shape of a bottle, wrapped with gray tape, and having with what appeared to be a paper fuse coming out from one end. 

Police said due to the suspicious nature of the device and for the safety of customers, it was removed from Hilliard`s possession.  When questioned by officers about the contents of the bottle, he stated that there was an accelerant to send a rocket to outer space.

During the initial search of Hilliard, a straight edge razor was found in the middle of his waistband, officials said.  Police said he also made a threatening statement toward them.

As the investigation continued, a second suspicious item was discovered sitting next to the left rear tire of the Hilliard’s vehicle, police said.

Hilliard said that the second suspicious item also contained a propellant inside and an electronic device for ignition, according to police.

Hilliard said the device was safe and offered to open it up for police.

Police said the devices were secured by Lake County deputies and the store was evacuated.

Police said two more containers were found inside Hillard's car.

The devices were later removed to a safe location and rendered safe by a remote controlled robot.  After being rendered safe, the suspicious items were determined to not be bombs, with no explosives or dangerous chemicals, police said.

The store was searched by an explosive detection K-9 team and other officers and was determined to be safe.  The store reopened shortly after 2 p.m., police said.

Hilliard faces multiple charges and was taken to the Lake County Jail, where he was being held on no bond.

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