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Suspect arrested after crashing car into Hammond target, planting fake explosive devices nearby; bond set at more than $1.5M

Walter Allbritton III, 41, of Ponchatoula (Source: Hammond Police Department)
Walter Allbritton III, 41, of Ponchatoula (Source: Hammond Police Department)(KALB)
Published: Jun. 5, 2020 at 2:54 PM CDT
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Dozens of police officers, including the FBI and ATF, converged on a Target store in Hammond early Friday afternoon (June 5) after someone reportedly drove a vehicle into the store and dropped a possible explosive device inside.

Authorities also responded to a nearby Dollar General Store and Sanderson Farms, where the man reportedly also visited before driving to Target. Dollar General is on Wardline Road in Hammond.

Police say they investigated a total of four suspicious packages at various scenes. A suspicious package was also left in the parking lot of Sanderson Farms, police say. Officials say the package dropped off at Sanderson Farms was not a bomb, but was a device made to look like one. Hammond officials later stated all “explosive devices” found were in fact fake.

Police say one person was taken into custody after fleeing the Target. The man reportedly tried to carjack someone on his way out of the store. The man taken into custody also had a “suspicious device” on his body, police say.

The man has been identified as Walter Allbritton III, 41, of Ponchatoula. He’s facing the following charges:

•Terrorism (3 counts)

•Terrorizing (3 counts)

•Resisting an officer (multiple counts)

•Attempted armed robbery

•Attempted aggravated arson

•Aggravated assault with a vehicle

•Aggravated criminal damage to property

•Manufacturing and possession of a delayed-action incendiary device

•Aggravated assault of a peace officer

On Monday, June 8, Allbritton’s bond was set at $1,506,000.

No shots were fired and only one minor injury was reported. The person was cut by glass, authorities say, and treated on scene.

Police say they believe Allbritton acted alone, but the investigation is still active.

The Louisiana State Police Emergency Services Unit (ESU) also responded to the scene at the Target store. That’s the unit of LSP that handles hazardous materials and explosives. Multiple other law enforcement agencies responded to the scene, including the Hammond Police Department, Louisiana State Police, the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Southeastern Louisiana University Police.

One witness said she was at a register paying for her items inside Target when she heard a “loud boom” and looked over and spotted the vehicle driving into the store.

Most businesses near the scene have since closed. The Hammond Square Mall area was quickly evacuated. Hammond officials say the mall will reopen Saturday, June 6 for normal business hours. Those who may have left their vehicles in the area may retrieve them beginning at 10:30 p.m. Friday, June 5.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said during his Friday afternoon news conference on COVID-19 that he has been briefed on the incident.

Edwards said he was told initial information indicates this situation has nothing to do with the ongoing protests and incidents of violence in the country.

“That’s based on some very preliminary information I got just before I walked out, although, I don’t entirely rule that out,” Edwards said. “I think there may have been another cause for this. Obviously, not one that’s justified, but it could have been motivated by something totally different.”

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