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Three Village Shopping Center

A suspicious package left near a donation box in the Three Village Shopping Center causes an evacuation of nearby stores. Photo by Donna Newman

A package that was left near a donation box in East Setauket caused a stir last week.

Suffolk County police were called to the Three Village Shopping Center on Route 25A in Setauket at 7:50 a.m., July 21, to evaluate a suspicious package left outside a donation box in the parking lot, according to police.

Sgt. Walter Langden said the item found in the lot appeared to consist of a wooden clock with wires connected to what might have been sticks of dynamite. Langden said it looked real, and SCPD emergency services were called in to evaluate the device.

The sergeant reported that a passerby had seen it and went into Starbucks, where a 911 call was made. Starbucks was evacuated and yellow police tape was used to close off the entire parking area.

Police said they were working to identify the person who initiated the call.

Police cars and emergency vehicles converge at the Three Village Shopping Center. Photo by Donna Newman
Police cars and emergency vehicles converge at the Three Village Shopping Center. Photo by Donna Newman

Lt. Kevin Burke said the item looked like a legitimate threat. It was taken into an emergency services van, where police officer and bomb technician Toby Monaco X-rayed the device and determined it was not a hazard. Burke said it was most likely a decorative item discarded at the donation bin.

Multiple departments responded to the call, including the Setauket Fire Department.

“We were here for backup support for the police department,” assistant fire chief, Paul Rodier, said at the scene. “It was more precautionary, for safety.”

Larry Hall, a fire officer at the scene, reminded the public to remain vigilant.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to work,” Hall said. “The public are the eyes. [If you] see something, say something.”

Starbucks employees said company policy did not allow them to speak to a reporter. Next door, at Island Packaging and Shipping, owner Gigi Querido said when her employee arrived that morning, she asked police if it was OK to open the store.

She was told not to open until all was clear. When Querido arrived at 9:15 a.m., she said there was a significant police presence in the parking lot, including police cars and a bomb squad van. A Setauket Fire Department ambulance was also parked nearby.

On July 25 a police spokesperson said the investigation is continuing and asked for anyone with information to call Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).