Bomb scares hit Turlock again

pguerra@modbee.comApril 29, 2013 

The Stanislaus County Bomb Squad robot checks out a suspicious device on Lander Avenue in Turlock Monday morning. (Debbie Noda/dnoda@modbee.com)

DEBBIE NODA

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate text Patty Guerra
    Title: Breaking news editor
    Coverage areas: Breaking news, business
    Bio: Patty Guerra has been an editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 13 years. She has a journalism degree from Fresno State and previously worked at the Turlock Journal and Merced Sun-Star.
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— Police and sheriff's deputies investigated two suspicious packages found a block apart on Lander Avenue on Monday morning.

According to Turlock police Sgt. Steve Webb, a city crew doing tree work found a "modified flashlight" in the median in the 1600 block of Lander at 8:51 a.m.

Authorities were called to the scene. Less than 20 minutes later, someone found a briefcase next to a power pole in the 1500 block, which is considered Stanislaus County territory. That call came in at 9:07 a.m., sheriff's Sgt. Anthony Bejaran said.

The area was closed to traffic and nearby businesses — Starbucks, O'Reilly Auto Parts and Little Caesars Pizza — were evacuated. Cunningham School was locked down while the bomb squad responded. The roads were reopened shortly before 1 p.m.

Both devices were found to be nonexplosive, officials said. The bomb squad robot took an X-ray of the briefcase, which showed it to be empty.

Second scare within a week

A similar scare Friday had police investigators closing the intersection and evacuating businesses because of a suspicious package in the same general area.

In that case, a citizen reported a possibly suspicious device on the side of the road near the Denny's restaurant, officer Mayra Lewis said Friday.

"As the investigation progressed, it was determined that it was not an explosive device," she said in an email.

The bomb squad responded to a call in Modesto on April 10 when suspects driving away after a shooting downtown crashed their car, exposing a potential explosive in the trunk.

It's been a busy month, Bejaran said, pointing out that sometimes the department goes several weeks without a bomb squad call.

When a suspicious device is called in, generally one or two deputies check it out before determining whether to bring in the bomb squad. Most often, they make that call, Bejaran said.

Although bombs have been in the news after the attack at the Boston Marathon this month, Bejaran said people have been more likely to call in reports for several years.

"Since (the terrorist attacks of) 9-11, we've asked people in the community to be more vigilant," he said. "But we haven't had an overwhelming amount of bomb calls."

Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.

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