Prospective voters who showed up Tuesday evening at the Galleria Mall faced an unexpected obstacle when a suspicious package found outside the building led to a bomb scare and limited access to the polls.
According to Officer Travis Hamlin, at 4:30 p.m. Henderson police received a call reporting a suspicious, unattended bag left around the valet line in the mall parking lot. Within minutes multiple police officers were on the scene taping off nearly the entire south parking lot and all doors in the area. Hundreds of cars were prevented from leaving and dozens looked on as more and more police continued to arrive on the scene with the bomb squad en route.
Inside the mall not only were there the normal shoppers one would expect early in the evening, but it was also voting day and people were slowly processing through, attempting to fulfill their civic duty. Dozens of voters and numerous customers were frustrated as the incident forced security to lock the doors closest to the voting area and cordon off the previously convenient parking area as well, trapping most of their cars.
Unable to get out of the mall to her car, an angry woman, who would refer to herself only as “Terrible Teddy”, ranted loudly that she intended to go change her vote as the current administration was “obviously incompetent, punishing me for her trying to do her civic duty.” She complained that “Henderson police are overpaid and useless.”
Meanwhile those police continued to arrive along with ambulances and a fire engine, hoping to avoid the need for either life-saving vehicle. Police and security around the area, which greeted any new mall traffic, did their best to guide drivers around to the back side of the mall where they could find other places to park. And though a number of cars turned around disturbed by the commotion, most of those who asked how they could vote proceeded around the mall to find a longer path to the polls. According to Betty, a poll worker who declined to give her last name, “there were few complaints and though it did slow down a bit, people continued to vote.” Luckily for them the suspicious package was outside the mall doors, so those who made it in were able to exercise their right.
The Galleria’s director of marketing Heather Valera stood outside and spoke with the police as they went about their business. She said, “the safety of the guests was the most important thing,” despite any inconveniences and that she and the mall staff “relied on the first responders to instruct us on how to handle the situation.” She explained, “there have been disturbances before, and we trust them to handle it. We just try and do what we can to keep our shoppers and tenants happy and comfortable while they make sure everything is safe. We’re at the mercy of the process.”
At 5:50 p.m., less than an hour and a half after the commotion began, John Hines sergeant of the armor unit of the Las Vegas Police Department was happy to report that the bomb squad and their dog had discovered no threat and the police began to take down the tape and release all of the trapped shoppers and voters. “We use the phrase ‘if you see something, say something,’” Hines added. “They saw something and they said something and we’re glad they did. It’s better to be cautious than sorry.”
Valera agreed as she smiled, “it’s a happy ending,” and walked back across the parking lot into the mall.