NOTE: This story was published Jan. 15, 2005. For information about the incident that occurred at the Du Quoin Wal-Mart on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, please click here.
DU QUOIN - Less than an hour after a bomb threat caused a lengthy evacuation of the Du Quoin Wal-Mart store, police arrested a suspect and charged him with placing a call claiming a chemical bomb had been placed in the store's duct system.
Justin Bagley, 22, of 1000 Diamond Terrace, No. 2, Pinckneyville, was charged with felony disorderly conduct and held in the Perry County Jail in lieu of $2,000 bond.
Bagley is an employee of Du Quoin Wal-Mart store, according to Du Quoin Police Chief Jim Booker. He declined to say what the man's motive was for making the call.
A caller contacted the store at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday alleging the chemical bomb was in place and would explode within the next three hours. Store employees quickly contacted police and evacuated the store.
Booker said much of the evacuation was complete by the time authorities arrived. Carts were left wherever shoppers were, groceries and merchandise were left lying on checkout counters and the store was emptied of people. Authorities said the crowd was large at the busy rush-hour time of day.
Responding to the call along with the Du Quoin Police were the state police, Du Quoin Fire Department, Du Quoin Emergency Services and Disaster Agency, Perry County Sheriff's Department, and a member of the Secretary of State Police bomb team. More than two dozen response personnel helped complete the evacuation and cleared the area.
The bomb squad officer worked with store personnel to check everything. No bomb or other device was found. By 8 p.m. the store reopened.
Booker and Wal-Mart spokeswoman Suzanne Haney of the company's Bentonville, Ark., corporate office offered praise for store Manager Ryan Ragar and store personnel and law enforcement for the prompt and efficient way in which they handled the situation. Both said they were pleased there were no injuries.
Booker said a female employee who asked not to be named took the call and did an extraordinary job of talking to the caller, gathering information and promptly setting in motion the proper response. He said the bomb team officer said her handling of the situation was "the best" he'd seen in the numerous similar situations he has handled in his position.
Booker also commended Du Quoin Police Department dispatcher Shannon Davison for coordinating numerous calls at the station while providing valuable research and information helping lead to the quick arrest of Bagley, who was arrested within about 30 minutes of the call.
Booker said the loss of food items left out during the evacuation and being closed for about four hours resulted in the loss of a tremendous amount of income for Wal-Mart. Haney said she couldn't comment on the loss but said the company is pleased that no one was hurt and that employees quickly and properly followed company safety procedures put in place for just such situations.
She said incidents such as Wednesday's are rare.
"We take these 'jokes' very seriously," Haney said. "When we can we prosecute to the fullest ability of the law."
Haney declined to comment on the allegations that an employee was the cause of the problem saying, "We would treat it like anything else. The safety of our customers is our top priority."
"I think they all did an excellent job," Ragar said, referring to Wal-Mart staff and emergency response personnel.
The Perry County state's attorney's office said if he is convicted, Bagley, who is not related to James Bagley, who was recently sentenced to prison for murder, could face a prison sentence of two to five years or possibly up to 24 months probation. Bagley is expected to make his first court appearance Tuesday or Wednesday.