With a loud boom, a robot from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad dispatched a “suspicious device” that was discovered Friday at a Santa Maria shopping center.
The incident began shortly before 8 a.m., when Santa Maria police officers responded to the city’s Parks Operations yard at 815 W. Cypress St., where the device had been taken.
A block of West Cypress Street on the south side of the fenced-and-gated property was shut down, and the Sheriff's Department's bomb squad was called in to help make an assessment.
“The bomb squad arrived on scene, determined that it was a potential device, and utilized their robot to render the device inert," said Battalion Chief Ed Hadfield of the Santa Maria Fire Department. "We’ve evaluated it at this time; we have no further information as to where the device came from, the origins of the device, or anything like that.
“We know that it’s an inert substance, it’s not explosive and we feel that it’s safe.”
Fire Chief Dan Orr said a city Recreation & Parks Department employee making his morning rounds found the 1-liter bottle wrapped in duct tape near the Big 5 store at the Santa Maria Town Center West.
The device had what appeared to be a fuse coming out of it, Orr said.
The employee tossed the device into the back of his truck, drove back to the parks facility, which shares the site with the Public Works Center, and police were notified.
The bomb squad robot retrieved the suspicious device from the back of the pickup and poured a small sample into a coffee can.
After a bomb squad member shouted "fire in the hole" three times," the robot's handler used its water cannon to blow off the top of the bottle, creating a loud boom in the neighborhood about at 11:15 a.m.
The concussion even startled city employees watching from nearby after being temporarily displaced.
Orr added that officials did not believe there was any risk to surrounding neighborhoods.