Police Chief John Fisher stopped by the Whole Foods store in the Bedford Marketplace on Wednesday “to check in and see how they’re doing. Some people were still pretty rattled.”
That’s because on Tuesday afternoon, patrons and employees evacuated the supermarket following a bomb threat received by telephone. Authorities searched the store and subsequently gave the all-clear. The police investigation is continuing.
“I really feel for the people who were displaced by the illegal actions of one person who chose to disrupt their day,” Fisher said. “The store was very gracious. They’re a vital community partner.”
Fisher said police were notified by the store manager on Tuesday at around 12:45 p.m., and officers responded immediately. Sgt. Stephen Waite, he said, “knew that our policy and procedure is to evacuate.”
The chief said that when he arrived, he saw Waite and store managers overseeing “an orderly evacuation. My impression when I got there was that the store personnel were doing an exceptional job, remaining calm.” Three staff members remained inside to make sure all shoppers were out, “which was really good.”
The Fire Department responded “with staff and equipment in case the incident escalated,” said Chief David Grunes. Fisher said he observed firefighters explaining the situation to patrons headed for the store.
The person who made the threatening call “was still on the phone,” the chief continued. “This was about money. They wanted the codes of gift cards sent to them.”
Fisher said he didn’t hesitate to contact the State Police bomb squad; as control chief for the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) SWAT team, “I work with them all the time because they co-respond.”
State Police took about a half-hour to sweep the premises and determine there were no explosives. “It’s not just being safe and cautious. We have this resource – I think that we should use them,” Fisher said. “Our primary job is to ensure that the store personnel, patrons, and any guests in Bedford are kept safe. That’s a busy store and there are a lot of people there from Bedford and our neighboring communities.”
The employees – Fisher said it seemed to be 45 to 50 – were asked to gather in a corner of the parking lot, and the chief said he, Fire Department Capt. Mark Sullivan, and Waite explained to them what had happened. “It was important for them to understand that we are here to keep them safe in their work environment, and to help them get through something like this,” Fisher said.
“There’s a great crew working there, and they are charged with a simple thing: feeding hungry people,” he continued. “I think it is incumbent upon us, with a unified front, to close the loop as much as we could and make them feel safe.”
He also extended the responders’ appreciation to “the patrons who did exactly what they were asked to do. I want people to come to Bedford with a high level of confidence that this is a safe place.”