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Officials give 'all clear' after man pulls fire alarm, claims to have bomb in Wheaton

WJLA – Washington D.C. logo WJLA – Washington D.C. 1 day ago Kevin Lewis & 7News Staff
Reports of explosives prompts evacuation at Montgomery County apartment building

The Montgomery County Bomb Squad gave the 'all clear' nearly six hours after a man pulled the fire alarm at the Arrive Wheaton apartments and shouted that he had a bomb.

Montgomery County Fire Rescue was dispatched to the building along the 11200 block of Georgia Avenue around 6:30 a.m. Thursday for the fire alarm. However, the call was significantly upgraded following 911 calls about the man claiming to have explosives in his possession.

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First responders evacuated a large swath of the 486-unit building, which is located one block from the Wheaton Metro Station and two blocks from the Westfield Wheaton Mall. Dozens of residents, some with their children and dogs, stood out in the rain, waiting for a detailed explanation from officials and building management.

"Please keep in mind we have limited information as this is a developing story, we ask that you are patient during this time and allow the appropriate officials to provide real time updates," building management wrote to residents in an email with the subject line, "Urgent, Please Read!"

Montgomery County officials relocated residents to the Wheaton Rec Center and Library for temporary sheltering. The building is located approximately .7 miles from the scene.

All lanes of northbound Georgia Avenue in the area remained blocked as police and fire personnel investigated. During an 11:45 a.m. press conference, Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein reported that the bomb squad had searched a unit connected with the suspect's claims and found nothing of concern.

"A few moments ago we took action to examine and determine [it'] safe and no hazard, the items in that unit," Goldstein explained.

Caption: Watch Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein's entire news conference. (7News)

Montgomery County Police identified the suspect as Amir Ibn-Faruq Paul, 35, but did not have his specific criminal charges or mugshot immediately available. Paul is expected to appear in Montgomery County District Court on Friday for his initial bond hearing.

Chief Goldstein did not describe how the bomb squad specifically handled Thursday's incident but said oftentimes a highly-trained member, wearing protective gear, will approach the item/s in question for visual observation. The bomb squad has the option to send in robotic equipment for further analysis, and if needed, detonation purposes too. Goldstein stressed that no detonation occurred Thursday as the man's declarations were unfounded.

"Our initial entry was a bomb tech and then we took actions to determine and make safe," Goldstein stated.

The Arrive Wheaton apartment building has a Safeway, plus a beer and wine shop on its ground floor. Chief Goldstein said he believed that both stores remained closed during the bomb scare.

"We do take actions on the highest level of safety that is the benefit of our personnel as well as the residents as opposed to taking a riskier approach that could have unintended consequences," Chief Goldstein said in response to a reporter's question about frustrated residents. "Indeed, folks were inconvenienced, my apologies to them, but we took the steps needed, and as fast as we could, to take appropriate action."


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