Police evacuated a Walmart Supercenter in Royal Palm Beach late Thursday after two suspicious packages were discovered on the premises, turning out hundreds of shoppers who had hoped to get an early jump on Black Friday sales, authorities said.
The packages were determined to be harmless, and the Walmart was expected to reopen by 11 p.m., about two hours after the shutdown, the sheriff’s office said.
The Walmart, located at the corner of Belvedere Road and State Road 7, was evacuated around 9 p.m. after the store contacted the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to report two suspicious-looking packages outside the store, sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.
“Somebody left two packages on a bench outside,” Barbera said. “They were suspicious to the management there and they asked us to check it out.”
Hundreds of shoppers and employees were instructed to evacuate at once, forcing people to leave discounted electronics and other merchandise that had gone on sale hours earlier. Walmarts around the country had begun Black Friday sales at 6 p.m.
“I was actually right at the check-out line,” said Patrick Casto, a Royal Palm Beach resident who was at the store to purchase Christmas gifts. “I had to be evacuated right out. I couldn’t get any of the stuff I was buying. There were people running right out of the store.”
The evacuation was mostly orderly, he said, but some people began panicking and sprinted out into the parking lot. Later, a part of the building was cordoned off with police tape, he said, while entrances to the parking lot were blocked.
“They kept telling us ‘Get back, get back,’” Casto said.
The store, at 9990 Belvedere Road, remained closed as the sheriff’s office bomb squad examined the packages. Around 10:25 p.m., the sheriff’s office announced on Twitter that the packages had been cleared and that the store “is expected to reopen at 11 p.m.”