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Bomb threat at Publix store a hoax

At first, a foot-long metal pipe appeared to be a bomb tucked behind displays of toilet paper at the neighborhood Publix.

In the end, police determined it was a hoax.

About 12:30 p.m. Thursday, a man phoned the Publix Super Market at 7580 49th St N and told store manager Tom Comeau he had planted bombs in the store. The man reportedly told the manager to take about $2,000 in cash to 49th Street and 62nd Avenue N and put the money in a Times newspaper box, police said.

Once the money was delivered, the caller promised to disclose where he hid the other bombs. To show he was serious, he told Comeau to check behind the toilet tissue in Aisle 8.

Comeau looked and found the pipe, which was capped at both ends and had wires connected to it.

Comeau asked department managers to quietly escort customers from the store. As many as 100 customers and 40 employees left.

About 90 percent of Carol Patterson's groceries had been scanned when she was asked to leave. She asked employees to call her when she could return for her groceries.

"This worries me a little bit," Patterson said. "I'm sure I probably walked right past it."

Police used shopping carts to hold the yellow crime-scene tape draped around the parking lot. Customers were kept from entering the neighboring Stacey's Buffet and Buddy Bi-Rite Rental Center.

Shortly before 5 p.m., Pinellas Park police spokesman Lee Lerchen said investigators determined there was no bomb. "It was a good reproduction," he said.

Two bomb-sniffing dogs did not find signs of other explosives, Lerchen said.

Jennifer Bush, corporate spokeswoman for Publix, said she was not aware of previous threats against that or other Publix stores.

Stock clerk Nanette Tauscher was not amused by the threat. She stocks Aisle 8.

"Nobody is safe, no matter where you work. Look at postal employees," said Tauscher, 19, who has worked at the store two years. "You take your risks."