LAKE WALES, Fla. (AP) - An improvised explosive device detonated in the corridor of a mall in Lake Wales, Florida, Sunday evening, authorities said.
No injuries were reported, the police said. A drop ceiling was damaged as well as structural damage to the corridor wall.
Emergency personnel from surrounding counties, including the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office Bomb Squad and the Lake Wales Fire Department, responded at around 5:30 p.m. to what Schulze said was initially a response to a "smoke alarm" alerting inside a remote, unpopulated service corridor JCPenney department store in the mall.
As they approached the mall's blast site, Deputy Chief Troy Schulze told ABC News Radio, the situation upgraded to a "structural fire."
And when authorities arrived on scene, Schulze said: "They determined that an IED, or a pipe bomb explosive, had detonated in the corridor."
Then the bomb squad made another disturbing find.
Schulze said as they canvassed the area where the flames were being put out, authorities found a "backpack or book bag that contained five or six other IEDs that were not detonated," adding the devices were "safely removed."
"We had guys go in and do a cursory search to make sure there wasn't anything else suspicious or out of place," he said.
Investigators are now turning their attention to track down a man they believe to be a "person-of-interest."
Schulze said multiple witnesses told police about a middle-aged man with a "heavy/stocky build, wearing a grey shirt and grey hat."
The pursuit of this person-of-interest remains active as Schulze said investigators attempt to get a hold of video footage.
"If anybody knows or hears anything we hope they would contact us," he said.
The explosion, however lethal, struck an area where Schulze said "there are no shoppers," and was restricted to the service corridor, which helped spare bloodshed.
"It could have been a lot more dangerous," he said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Lake Wales Police Detective Whitney Dukes at (863)678-4223 or Heartland Crime Stoppers at (800) 226-8477.