According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, a Gibsonton Walmart was evacuated on Sunday after someone called and threatened to shoot it up just after 1 p.m. Sheriff's deputies entered the store, checked for people hiding or hidden weapons and decided that there was no immediate danger to the Walmart, which reopened at 3:30 p.m.
Deputies later arrested 31-year-old Valrico man Wayne Lee Padgett, who has been charged with filing a false report of using a firearm in a violent manner. Padgett, who is unemployed, had no firearms at his home, according to officials. He also has no criminal record in Florida, but he is being held in jail on $7,500 bail.
Deputies said that Padgett lives near the store, located at 9205 Gibsonton Dr., and that his mother even works there. In fact, she was working during the time of the call.
The Sheriff’s Office did not say what motivated Padgett to make the threat, but it did arrive on the same weekend when at least 29 people died during two separate incidents at an El Paso, Texas Walmart and an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio.
After the arrest, HCSO Sheriff Chad Chronister told media that Padgett admitted to both making the call and being “intrigued with the shootings over the last couple of days.”
The New York Times said that in Ohio, “the gunman wore a mask, body armor and hearing protection, and he possessed a high-capacity magazine capable of holding 100 rounds.” His motive remains unknown. In El Paso, CNN said that authorities believe the shooter — a 21-year-old white male — is also the “author of a racist, anti-Hispanic document detailing motivations for the shooting.”
“To have an individual who for whatever reason wants to be a copycat, or wants to still fear in people for whatever that motive may be is disturbing,” Chronister added.
“If you make any type of threat, know that your sheriff’s office is going to take it extremely seriously, expend whatever resources in a timely fashion to find that threat.”