Droves of employees and Black Friday shoppers were evacuated Friday afternoon from the Meijer store in Highland amid reports of a suspicious device that turned out to be a toy grenade.
Highland police Cmdr. John Banasiak said police were dispatched to the grocery chain store at 10138 U.S. 41 at 12:13 p.m. after receiving a report that a customer spotted a device in a shopping aisle near a trash can.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Highland police and fire and Porter County Bomb Squad were called to the scene, he said.
"An agent from the ATF quickly arrived and upon a closer inspection of the device, it was found to be a toy grenade," Banasiak said.
Mike Seljan, of Dyer, said he was with his family finishing a transaction about 12:30 p.m. Friday when store employees announced the evacuation.
Seljan said he spoke with an employee, who told him a customer dropped a grenade in the back of the store, which they feared was real.
“I just thought it was weird,” he said.
Several squad cars and a Highland fire vehicle could be seen parked near the main entrance while shoppers and employees gathered in the parking lot after being ushered outside.
Customer Josh Belcher said he was shopping for clothes when the message to evacuate came across the intercom at about 12:30 p.m. He also heard from employees that the evacuation was prompted by a report of a person having dropped a grenade in the store.
The loudspeaker alerted shoppers and employees to evacuate by heading toward the nearest exits, Belcher said.
Everyone remained calm as Highland police escorted shoppers and employees out the door, he said. Highland firefighters also were on the scene.
"I left a cart full of stuff," Belcher said.
He said police officers ordered people to leave all of their items, even if they were in the process of checking out.
Seljan said he and his family were waiting in their car outside the store.
“I don't think we are going to stick around,” he said. He noted his family had other stores to visit this Black Friday.
Police began allowing shoppers back in about 1 p.m. after it was confirmed the item was a toy grenade.
Banasiak said the incident remains under investigation.
There were no injuries and no threats were made regarding the incident.
Anyone with information about this incident should contact the Highland Police Criminal Investigations Division at 219-838-3184.
The story is developing please check and nwi.com for updates.