Unattended briefcase causes bomb scare

The threat of terrorism struck downtown Tampa on Thursday afternoon with a bomb scare.

Shortly after 1 p.m., someone spotted a briefcase, with no apparent owner. It was left on top of a garbage can in the patio area of the Bank of America building on Tampa and Jackson streets.

Given last week?s terrorist attacks, the police were called and responded within minutes.

The bomb squad, fire department and police descended within minutes, cordoning off a two-block avenue.

Joe Durkin, spokesman for the Tampa Police Department, said all law enforcement is on guard because of the attacks.

?Because of the recent events, there?s a heightened sense of security,? he said.

Police evacuated all of the sidewalks but not the surrounding offices.

Hundreds of employees on their way back to their offices from noon lunches, crammed the sidewalks speculating what was happening. Traffic clogged streets immediately as police put up barricades.

Drivers, leaning out their windows, yelled to pedestrians and other drivers, ?Do you know what?s happening??

Brenda Greenwald, a hotdog vendor on the corner of Franklin Street and Kennedy Boulevard, has worked downtown for 19 years and said while she has seen bomb scares, Thursday?s was different.

?It was the first time everyone backed far away,? she said. ?Even the fireman backed off a distance.?

Durkin said the bomb squad used a robot to get the briefcase and then X-rayed it, finding no explosive materials.

?It was a normal briefcase and had all the normal contents of a briefcase,? Durkin said. It?s owner had not claimed it as of Thursday.

He said there have been other bomb scares since the attack, but none that involved an object being found.

Thursday?s scare comes at a time when Americans are living in an apprehensive mode.

But Robert Cervantes, a valet at the Hyatt Regency hotel, said he wasn?t nervous despite being moved a block away.

?I thought it was fake,? he said. ?I just didn?t think a bomb would be there.?

Cervantes? nonchalant attitude is what law enforcement is trying to avoid.

?Tampa police and Tampa fire used the appropriate amount of precaution,? Durkin said. ?It reflects on the heightened sense of anxiety felt around the nation.?

Contact Selina Roman atoraclemanaging@yahoo.com