Suspicious package shuts down Hernando shopping center

- The Hernando County Sheriff says investigators are following some strong leads after a suspicious package was found near a bus stop Wednesday morning.  

The Mariner Square Shopping Center was shut down, along with Cortez and Mariner Boulevards when the package was discovered by a county worker around 8:00 a.m.

Sheriff Al Nienhuis says the package was placed in “periodical or newspaper box.”  He said a deputy took photos of the package, and -- without going into detail -- said there were some things about the package that were “at the very least, suspicious.”

The sheriff says the bomb squad from neighboring Citrus County responded to the scene to help investigate the package.  Law enforcement officers from FHP, Fish and Game, and the Division of Forestry poured into the area to assist investigators, and to help control traffic.  The sheriff said the massive law enforcement response was necessary, “particularly in the environment we’re in with potential copycats and that kind of thing.”  

Shortly before noon, the all-clear was given, and the roads around the area were opened.  The sheriff said investigators were focused on finding out who left the package there and whether it was an intentional hoax, or an accident.  

“I’m happy to report we already have some leads we’re working, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get to the bottom of the individual who left the package there,” he added.

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