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School, Countryside Mall receive bomb threats

No bombs are found at the mall or at East Lake High School. Both locations were evacuated.

Separate bomb threats Wednesday forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 people from Countryside Mall and 2,000 students from East Lake High School.

No bombs were found in either case.

A 911 operator received a threat to the mall at 4:14 p.m., said Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor. "The caller said there was a bomb in the mall and it would go off in 60 minutes," he said.

Police notified mall management personnel, who decided to evacuate the entire shopping complex. Mall manager Bill Carnes said it was a smooth process.

At 4:45 p.m., security personnel and six officers walked through the mall looking for anything suspicious and asking shoppers and store employees to leave, said Clearwater police Lt. N.J. Miller. Nothing was found, Miller said.

"I wasn't really scared," said 17-year-old Araceli Solis, who was waiting on a customer at Dairy Queen when she heard about the threat. "Clearwater isn't really a place you hear about this stuff."

Nevertheless, Araceli waited in her mother's car in the back of the mall's parking lot until employees were allowed back inside the mall at 6 p.m.

The mall reopened to shoppers at 6:20 p.m.

Earlier in the day, East Lake High School was evacuated because of a similar threat.

Principal Richard Misenti said someone with a male voice called 911 during the school's third lunch period. The caller said a bomb was going to go off in a classroom building at 1 p.m. School officials immediately evacuated all the students, more than 2,000, Misenti said.

Searches by resource officers and a bomb-sniffing dog turned up nothing. The 911 center determined the call came from the student pay phone across from the cafeteria in the student eating section, Misenti said.

Students were evacuated at 12:40 p.m., and the buildings were reopened at 2 p.m., 10 minutes after the close of school.

_ Times staff writer Robert Farley contributed to this report.