Video: L.A. mall threat not credible

NBC News and news services
updated 4/29/2004 5:54:34 PM ET 2004-04-29T21:54:34

A terrorism task force was investigating an “uncorroborated” threat to a Los Angeles-area shopping mall, and federal officials say an attack may have been planned for Thursday.

“As of now, the information is uncorroborated and the credibility of the source is unknown,” Los Angeles police said in a statement.

No specific shopping mall was named, but an anonymous telephone call to federal officials several days ago indicated a mall near the Federal Building in West Los Angeles, Police Chief William Bratton said. The caller provided no further details about a possible attack.

The warning was analyzed for several days along with other information that Bratton declined to specify. Malls were notified and police were placed on citywide alert before the public warning was made.

The alert was “strictly precautionary,” Bratton said at a news conference at The Grove, an open shopping mall in the Fairfax District.

Bratton calls for ‘eyes, ears’ of public
The alert was “strictly precautionary,” Bratton said at a news conference.

“We need the eyes, the ears” of the public because such scrutiny can deter terrorists, he added.

Bratton said police and the FBI were trying to identify the caller. Police had already been investigating several other threats that weren’t as specific.

The Los Angeles Police Department increased patrols at shopping malls and asked mall operators to beef up security while a joint terrorism task force investigates.

Thursday morning, pairs of LAPD officers on foot patrolled all three levels of the Westside Pavilion, about 2½ miles away from the Federal Building.

Liliana Restrepo, 24, who operates a jewelry cart in the mall, said she wasn’t worried herself but was afraid the threat would scare away customers. “It will be a horrible day,” she said.

Crew members putting up sets for a Tim Allen movie called “Skipping Christmas” also shrugged off the warning. “We can’t let it bother us. We can’t live in fear,” said Alex Barnoya.

4,000 similar threats
FBI spokesman Matt McLaughlin said that because the "reliability of the source is unknown" and exact details were "unsubstantiated," officials decided that as the date drew nearer and "out of an abundance of caution" they would enlist the public's help.

He added that seeking public help is done "in cases all the time." The FBI says 4,000 similar, unsubstantiated threats have been received in the United States over the last year.

An advisory issued late Wednesday asks the public and mall security to look for:

  • People or activities that don't "fit" into the mall environment.
  • People sitting in a parked vehicle for a long time.
  • People sketching or taking notes, photographing or videotaping areas not normally associated with tourism.
  • Someone wearing a heavy coat in hot weather.
  • Anyone carrying unusually heavy bags or backpacks.
  • Vehicles improperly parked or in spots not normally used for deliveries.

Any suspicious activity can be reported at 877-ATHREAT (877-284-7328).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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