Cops prioritize Home Depot security after bomb find

Suffolk police talk about the bomb scare at a Huntington Home Depot, adding that the FBI has joined the investigation. Videojournalist: James Carbone (Oct. 17, 2012)

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Suffolk County police questioned a person in an alleged extortion plot involving an explosive device found at a Home Depot store in Huntington this week, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

The person had not been charged Wednesday night, the source said. Police declined to comment on whether they were interviewing anyone.

An "improvised explosive device" was found Monday afternoon at the store and removed by Suffolk police that night, the FBI said early Wednesday.

The package was discovered in the store, in a shopping center on New York Avenue north of the Huntington Long Island Rail Road Station, after store management received a bomb-threat letter, Suffolk police said.

The note targeted The Home Depot chain, the law enforcement source said. The suspicious package was safely removed by Suffolk Emergency Services officers, police said.

Store officials had called 911 at 4:11 p.m. Monday, police said. The store, which had about 50 customers and employees at the time, was evacuated.

The source told Newsday that the Huntington store bomb plot involved a letter sent to the store saying if money was not paid, more bombs would be placed.

Meanwhile, police said security has been heightened around the chain stores countywide.

Suffolk police Deputy Chief John Meehan, acting chief of patrol, said officers had been told to be a visible presence around the stores and dispatchers were instructed to give a high priority to any Home Depot-related 911 calls of suspicious activities.

"This is all to assure the public that we are taking every step necessary to keep our citizens safe," Meehan said.

Deputy Insp. Harold Jantzen, commanding officer of the Major Crimes Bureau, said Suffolk police were leading the investigation, assisted by the crime lab and the FBI.

In Nassau, meanwhile, police Wednesday responded to an Elmont Home Depot store after an employee reported finding something suspicious in a box that had been returned to the store. No explosives were found, police said.

Nassau police spokesman Insp. Kenneth Lack said, "Apparently, an individual came to the store to return an item, a[n] . . . 18 volt jigsaw to the store. He brought it to the return counter and told the employee that the drill was not in the box."

The employee instructed the customer to retrieve another jigsaw, Lack said. He did so and left but later, when the employee looked inside the returned box, he saw "other items."

The store was evacuated. The items were "not consistent with something we would consider explosive material," Lack said.

Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes referred questions to police, saying the store was "doing everything we can to assist" authorities.

"The safety of our customers and associates is certainly of the utmost importance to us, so we always work to make sure we have appropriate security for our stores," he said.

Several people entering the Huntington store Wednesday said they were unaware of the incident.

Ed McLaren, 50, of Mastic Beach said he had not heard about the incident.

"It won't affect me shopping here," McLaren said as he adjusted a stack of lumber in the back of his red pickup truck. "This is convenient, and I'll be back."

With Matthew Chayes,

Gary Dymski, Bill Mason,

Ellen Yan, Lauren R. Harrison

and Joseph Mallia

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