FBI, police investigate ‘suspicious vehicle’ at Anchorage Midtown Mall

Federal Protective Service vehicles block off an entrance to the Midtown Mall on Jan. 11, 2021. (Casey Grove/AKPM)

UPDATE 5:47 p.m.:

FBI spokeswoman Chloe Martin said the law enforcement activity on Monday was in response to reports of an individual who made threats against nearby federal buildings. “A threat assessment was conducted on the individual’s vehicle, which has now been cleared and determined to be a non-threat,” Martin wrote in an email.

UPDATE 5:05 p.m.:

All the roads around Anchorage Midtown Mall are reopened, though traffic delays will continue, police said in a statement shortly after 5 p.m. Monday.

Police said “nothing suspicious was found.” Part of the mall parking lot, however, will remain closed as the investigation continues.

Original story:

Reports of a suspicious vehicle at Anchorage’s Midtown Mall prompted police and the FBI to shut down all of the major streets surrounding the mall, which include some of the busiest thoroughfares in Alaska’s largest city.

Police announced the closures of Northern Lights and Benson boulevards between Latouche and Denali streets, and the New Seward Highway between 36th Avenue and Fireweed Lane, in a written statement about 12:30 p.m. and said traffic detours would continue for several hours.

Smaller connecting side streets and access to surrounding businesses have also been blocked off.

An employee at a store in the mall, who asked not to be named out of safety concerns, said a male customer told her around 11:20 a.m. that there was a bomb at the mall.

“He asked me if I knew about what was happening … and I said ‘No’ and he’s like, ‘there’s a bomb that’s gonna explode.’” At first, the employee said she thought he was joking but “he looked straight at me and he was like ‘It’s not a joke, it’s serious.”

The employee called her manager, who called mall security. Mall security arrived at the store shortly after, the woman said.

“I guess they talked to him because I was on the phone already with the police,” she said. “And then when I came back from the phone call, he was already gone.”

Two employees of the nearby Carrs grocery store, who had been evacuated, also said they’d heard reports of a bomb threat. FBI spokeswoman Chloe Martin would neither confirm nor deny reports of a bomb threat.

As Federal Protective Services and Anchorage police officers directed traffic away from the area about 2:30 p.m., Martin said there was no immediate threat to public safety.

Martin would only say that the law enforcement officers were conducting a “threat assessment.” Two officers appeared to be operating a remote-controlled robot.

Casey Grove contributed to this report.