Police evacuate area and destroy black gym bag with ‘red type of voltage meter’

By Gary Walker

PVbombscare1A bomb scare at Whole Foods Playa Vista on Thursday afternoon prompted evacuations in the area and shut down eastbound traffic along Jefferson Boulevard for more than three hours.

LAPD patrol and Bomb Squad officers arrived on scene at about 2:30 p.m. after a customer noticed a suspicious package on the lower level of the Whole Foods parking structure and notified a store security guard, who called 911.

After determining that the package was suspicious, police began evacuating Whole Foods, the adjacent Cinemark Playa Vista and nearby Playa Vista residents, LAPD Sgt. Art Gallegos said.

“Our Bomb Squad was notified; they arrived and investigated the package and rendered it safe. It looked similar to a bomb, but it was not a bomb,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos described the suspicious package as a black gym bag “with a red type of voltage meter.”

Bomb Squad officers were unable to open the bag and used C-4 explosives and a robot to detonate the bag.

Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics also responded to the scene, and at 3 p.m. parking enforcement officers began closing Jefferson from Beethoven Street to Centinela Avenue. Jefferson was reopened to eastbound traffic at about 6:15 p.m.

Students attending an after-school program at Animo Westside Charter Middle School were placed on lockdown during the bomb investigation. At about 3:30 p.m., a group of teachers led the students to a field next to a storage company while they placed calls to the students’ parents.

Playa Vista residents invited many Whole Foods employees into their homes during the evacuation, said Whole Foods assistant store team leader Patrick McManama.

“It was really neat to see how the community came together around us. Many of them allowed us to use their restrooms and gave our team members water and showed a lot of concern. That was really great to see,” he said.

Even though the package turned out not to be a bomb, Gallegos said it’s better to play it safe than be sorry later.

“Given the times that we’re in, I would encourage any citizen who observes anything suspicious that they call 911 and let us handle it,” Gallegos said.