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Valrico man, 31, arrested after fake threat evacuates Gibsonton Walmart, deputies say

Wayne Lee Padgett, 31, of Valrico, was arrested on a felony charge of making a false report of using a firearm in a violent manner, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. [HCSO]

GIBSONTON — A Walmart Supercenter was evacuated Sunday after a caller threatened to shoot up the place, deputies said.

The threat was made in the wake of two mass shootings this past weekend in Texas and Ohio that killed at least 29 people.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office determined there was no immediate danger to the Walmart, but promised to locate the caller and charge them with a felony for making a terroristic threat.

Later that night, deputies kept their word: Wayne Lee Padgett, 31, of Valrico, was arrested on a felony charge of filing a false report of using a firearm in a violent manner.

Deputies said Padgett had no firearms at his home and has no criminal record in Florida. The Sheriff's Office did not say what motivated the threat. Padgett is currently unemployed.

The threatening call came the day after a gunman opened fired in a Walmart in El Paso, killing 20 and injuring 26 on Saturday. Then Sunday morning, the nation awoke to the news that there had been another mass shooting: A man in body armor shot and killed at least nine people in an entertainment district in Dayton.

"Threats like this are not funny on any day and especially not funny today," said sheriff's spokeswoman Amanda Granit after the store was evacuated.

Managers at the Walmart, located at 9205 Gibsonton Drive, received the call at about 1:17 p.m. The person on the other line sounded like a man, deputies said, and he threatened to enter the store and shoot everyone. Employees quickly started evacuating the nearly 1,000 shoppers inside the building and called the Sheriff's Office for help.

Five patrol deputies raced to the scene and arrived within minutes, as people poured into the parking lot. Deputies checked to make sure no one was hurt and looked for anyone acting suspiciously.

Then the deputies entered the store and checked for hidden people or weapons. Within an hour, they determined the threat was not credible. The Walmart was reopened at 3:30 p.m.

Padgett was arrested at about 7 p.m. He was being held in the Hillsborough County jail late Sunday in lieu of $7,500 bail.

Contact Kavitha Surana at (727) 893-8149 or Follow @ksurana.