January 28, 2002
Left luggage? Police investigate
by Jeanette Knutson
There was a commotion at Woodinville's TOP Food and Drug last Monday. It was a federal holiday and store traffic was heavier than usual.
"It was an odd situation," said company spokesperson Becky Skaggs.
"There was no crime involved," said Sgt. Ken Wardstrom, chief of police services for the city of Woodinville, "just suspicious circumstances."
Police reports indicate a Mountlake Terrace man in his early 30s parked his car in the TOP Foods parking lot around 2 p.m. He and his family went inside the store to shop.
When they returned to the car about an hour later, the gentleman found a silver aluminum briefcase under the driver's door of his car. Attached to the briefcase was a handwritten note that read, "Enjoy with my compliments. Locking combination 409."
The man did not move the case but returned to the store where he called the police. When they arrived, he pointed out the suspicious package.
On-scene police then called for a Bomb Disposal Unit, evacuated that area of the parking lot and secured the scene.
"The police taped off the store's south parking lot," said Dick Brown, Woodinville resident and witness to last Monday's brouhaha. "Nobody was allowed in or out of the area, walking or driving."
"The store was not closed," said spokesperson Skaggs, "part of the parking lot was." Fortunately, she said, the majority of those who use that part of the parking lot are store employees.
A Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District fire truck was called to the scene and stood ready in the background.
Detective Kometz of the KingCounty Bomb Disposal Unit, wearing a bomb suit of heavily reinforced armor, inspected the case thoroughly before opening it.
Quincy, a federally certified bomb dog - one of the few ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) trained bomb dogs on the West Coast and assigned to the King County Sheriff's Department - assisted.
Inside the briefcase Kometz found a Citizen wristwatch and a ballpoint pen. Police estimate the value of the case and contents to be $100.
"The police did a great job," said Skaggs. "They saw to it that we were safe, that our customers were safe."
"We certainly liked the outcome," said Wardstrom. "We may have inconvenienced a few people by closing down part of the parking lot. But people's safety is the most important thing.
"This man did the right thing by calling the police. Nowadays, people have to be alert to their surroundings," he said.
The department doesn't really get many suspicious-package calls, said Wardstrom. Though since Sept. 11, he said, they're getting "seemingly a few more than before."
At the time this paper went to press, law officers had not determined how the briefcase got under the car, whether it was placed there or whether it somehow slid or fell there.