Bomb threats, theft land woman in jail
A Central woman who allegedly called in a bomb threat in order to shoplift from the Walmart Supercenter on Grant Line Road in New Albany last Tuesday allegedly used the same tactics the following afternoon at the Walmart Supercenter in Corydon. Her second plan was foiled, however, thanks to the loss prevention team at the store and local law enforcement.
According to Wayne Kessinger, chief of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, a threat was made by cell phone from inside the Corydon Walmart at about 1:45.
‘The caller said, ‘This is a bomb threat. You have 17 minutes to get out’,’ Kessinger said.
As employees and shoppers were evacuating the store, Jessica A. Brown, 23, of the 6600 block of Julie Lane near Central, fled through the cart entrance area near the main south side entrance of the store. Brown allegedly stole a University of Louisville shoulder bag that she had used to allegedly stash several DVDs that included full seasons of television shows.
‘With the merchandise that she had, that was her best escape route due to security devices on the items,’ Kessinger said.
He said the total value of the merchandise was about $700, not including tax.
As fellow employees made their way toward Culver’s of Corydon and an overflow parking lot across from Ryan’s Family Steak House, loss prevention employees at Walmart kept Brown from leaving in her Kia Optima. She paced back and forth near the car while smoking a cigarette and then got behind the wheel just before Officer Marty McClanahan of the HCSD parked his police car in front of Brown’s.
Brown stepped out of the car, then McClanahan placed her in handcuffs.
Michelle Moore, who works in loss prevention at Walmart, pointed out the merchandise that was stolen as McClanahan talked with Brown. A few minutes later, he transported Brown to the Harrison County Jail, where she was interviewed by Officer Nick Smith of the HCSD.
Walmart was closed for almost two hours as a result of the threat.
Louisville Metro Police was en route to the store with a bomb-sniffing dog after a call from Kessinger; however, they were called off after Brown was taken into custody and admitted to phoning in the threat.
Kessinger said Brown allegedly attempted to shoplift from the Corydon location a few days earlier but fled. Walmart’s loss prevention team was notified when she came back to the store last Wednesday.
‘They had her on surveillance for some time and noticed her talking on the phone but they didn’t know to who,’ Kessinger said. ‘About two minutes after that is when people started to be evacuated.’
Officers with the sheriff’s department and Indiana State Police made sure the store was clear with several minutes to spare before the threatened detonation. Personnel from the Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Department also responded to the scene and blocked access roads and directed traffic during the incident.
Jeanne Walter, who was inside Walmart when the threat was made, said she never heard an announcement to leave. Her husband, Tom, who is the Lanesville Police chief, called her cell phone after he heard Harrison County Dispatch’s transmission.
‘I turned to the three people in the aisle with me and explained who my husband was and that we needed to get out of the store now,’ Jeanne Walter said. ‘As we approached the end of the row to turn and walk to the front, there were approximately 15 to 20 employees moving quickly towards the front exit, so we followed them out. At no time did I hear an announcement.
‘On my way out, there were people still going in so I stopped approximately 10 different groups and told them they were evacuating the store and they should return to their vehicles … Walmart should have been getting customers out that door first, not employees. I did see about five or six employees going out of their way to help families with little ones and elderly to get safely to their cars.’
Three Walmart employees who asked not to be identified were asked if they heard an announcement to customers. Two said they did, and the third said she didn’t.
‘It was announced that customers needed to complete their transactions and exit the store as soon as possible,’ one female employee recalled.
‘I thank goodness our local police, EMS and fire departments handled it in a timely, calm and orderly manner,’ Jeanne Walter said.
Further investigation led to an additional 13 counts of Class C felony forgery being added to her Class D felony counts of theft and false reporting or informing. Brown allegedly admitted to taking two checkbooks and a debit card belonging to two people who she provided overnight care for. Brown allegedly forged the owners’ names to $9,300 worth of checks.
‘Nick Smith was able to elicit confessions from her in her involvement in the theft of the checks,’ Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye said. ‘He did a good job.’
The investigation is continuing, Kessinger said.