DES MOINES, Iowa — Police say multiple fake bomb threats were called in Hy-Vee locations across Iowa on Monday.
Capt. Scott Milner with the Council Bluffs Police Department confirms officers were dispatched to the Hy-Vee at 1745 Madison Ave around 6:50 p.m. Monday for a call of a bomb threat. He says an employee received a phone call from a man with a thick, foreign accent stating there was a pipe bomb in the store.
Officers checked the store and discovered the call was not credible. Milner tells Local 5 News this call was very similar to a call the store had taken weeks prior.
About 40 minutes later, a similar call came into a Hy-Vee in Johnston.
While shoppers and staff were briefly evacuated as police checked into the call, they were allowed back in just before 8 p.m. once police deemed the call a fake.
Similar to the Council Bluffs call, it was a male caller with a foreign accent.
A spokesperson for Hy-Vee released the following statement to Local 5 News saying:
"You may have seen in the news that there have been some recent bomb threats called in to Hy-Vee locations. Unfortunately, this type of activity is taking place all across the industry and nation. Retailers such as Walmart, Target, Kroger, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter and Publix, along with others, have also been a target of these threats. In the majority of these instances, the callers are specific with an ask and issue the threat of a bomb if their request is not met. We take each of these calls very seriously in order to protect the safety of our employees and customers. In each case, our security team partners with law enforcement, such as the FBI and local law enforcement, and follows their guidance in response to the threat. If this activity persists, we will continue to take each threat seriously and continue to act in the best interest of the safety of our employees and customers."
According to the Omaha Division of the FBI, threat calls to an establishment, like a bomb threat to a grocery store, are hoax calls. Swatting are calls to a 911 dispatcher reporting an active crime from a spoofed number. Both can be state and federal crimes.
"There are there are numerous cases nationwide," said Omaha FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Clint Nafey. "There's hundreds of them. But a lot of these cases go unreported."
ASA Nafey believes so many go unreported because the recipient recognizes them as a fake and just hangs up.
"Please report it. Remember, as much as you can and try to stay as calm as you can if you're getting one of these calls," he said. "And take it seriously. Please coordinate and comply with local law enforcement with their demands. And then once it's settled, we can figure out why this is happening to you and try to determine where these calls are coming from, so that we can prosecute these individuals."
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