BREA — Hundreds of Christmas shoppers were evacuated from the northern wing of the Brea Mall Saturday afternoon after authorities received an anonymous bomb threat and discovered a "suspicious" package.
No arrests or injuries were reported from the incident, which turned out to be a hoax.
The scare at the 180-store mall came after similar evacuations were made at malls in Glendale and Carson recently. The Glendale incident Wednesday proved to be a hoax, but authorities disposed of a bomb found in the Carson Mall Dec. 2.
Brea police could not say Saturday whether the three incidents were related.
"You can't rule it out," said Police Lt. Douglas Dickerson. "There's no reason to suspect a connection, but this kind of thing is very easy to copy."
About noon, Brea police received a 911 telephone call claiming "multiple bombs" were stashed in the mall, Dickerson said. Police and mall security soon discovered a "suspicious package" in the Robinsons-May department store and began herding shoppers and employees from a 20-store area about 2:30 p.m., officials said.
"They told us to drop everything and leave the building," said Andy Pence, 19, who works at Sbarro's Italian Eatery in the nearby food court. "It was kind of exciting. Hardly anything ever happens around here."
Hundreds gathered outside as the Orange County Sheriff's Department bomb squad examined the package. After bomb squad officials determined the item was not a bomb, stores were reopened and shoppers were allowed inside the mall by 3:15 p.m, authorities said.
"It was a significant evacuation," Dickerson said. "We would have preferred not to move anyone, especially with Christmas shopping, but we wanted to be safe."
Mall officials did not expect the evacuation would cut into vital holiday sales. Most of the mall, about 160 other stores, remained open during the incident, officials said.
"It really shouldn't have much of an effect on sales," said the mall General Manager Don Ford. "That's really not an issue though. The safety of our customers comes first."
Most afternoon shoppers appeared unaware of the bomb scare.