Breakfast ends in bomb scare for Watts
Tony Watts got more than a cup of coffee when he went to the Cruz-In Diner Monday morning.
A suspicious looking briefcase found next to his car turned into a three-hour bomb scare that had Thomasville police evacuating businesses and calling in a robot from Winston-Salem.
Watts arrived at the diner around 7:15 a.m. and was having coffee and talking with friends when a waitress came up and said someone noticed he left his briefcase beside his car. Watts, the manager of Express Cab and a guest columnist for the High Point Enterprise, had one briefcase with him and thought perhaps his other one fell out of the car.
Watts knew a few moments later that whatever it was sitting beside the left rear tire of his 2008 Hyundai Sonata did not belong to him.
“It didn't take me but a split second to know it wasn't my briefcase,” Watts said. “It was an old attache case with a combination lock that was wrapped in wire, it looked like maybe a coat hanger. The latches were open so the wire was wrapped around it to keep it closed.”
Thinking maybe his father picked it up at a yard sale or a friend might be pulling a prank, Watts made a few phone calls only to find nobody knew anything about it.
He decided to call the police.
“A police officer came up there and he didn't want to touch it,” said Watts. “It was an inch or so from my back wheel on the driver's side. It was so close to my tire it looked like it was intentionally set there. Everybody was afraid to mess with it.”
Due to the suspicious nature of the briefcase, Thomasville police elected to evacuate the diner and other surrounding businesses until a bomb detecting robot from Winston-Salem Police Department arrived.
“[Watts] came out of the diner after eating breakfast and found a briefcase next to his car that looked funny and had wires wrapped around it,” Chief Jeff Insley said. “He was concerned and notified us. After an initial look, we were concerned, too. We backed off and evacuated the area.”
Police cordoned off the area and blocked all traffic at the intersection of National Highway and Julian Avenue. With help from the robot, the bomb squad determined the package was harmless and contained nothing but papers inside. Watts returned to the scene around noon and was questioned by police regarding anyone who would be targeting him for a prank or something worse.
“A lot of the questioning revolved around whether I knew someone who would be angry enough to do something like this and did I do something to make somebody angry,” said Watts, who recently published a book titled “Love Still Wins”. “ They asked if I received any threats through the mail. I couldn't think of anybody who would've done that. I'm a conservative Christian and I write about pro-family, pro-life, pro-traditional marriage in my columns.”
Watts said police haven't found any evidence that a he was the target of a prank and are investigating the incident. The briefcase, according to Watts, contained a bank document with a person's name on it. Insley said a suspect has not been identified and detectives are interviewing witnesses to determine if any charges should be filed once the owner of the briefcase is located.
“It wasn't the typical Monday morning,” Watts said. “Everything turned out OK, but it was a little scary at the time.”
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.