Under Suspicion: Package brings Tupelo area to halt

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A suspicious package brought part of Tupelo to an eerily quiet standstill for four hours on Monday afternoon while police conducted their investigation.
Businesses were closed and traffic was snarled before a Tupelo Police Department bomb squad determined that the package found in a taxi was not harmful.
About 10 a.m. Monday, authorities received a call from a taxi driver, who said a man put a package in the taxi’s trunk, entered the vehicle and said the package may contain an explosive device, Police Chief Tony Carleton said.
The cab driver stopped at the BancorpSouth branch at Cliff Gookin Boulevard and South Gloster Street and alerted the authorities.
The passenger, identified as Temetris Watkins, 49, of 405 Dry Creek Road, Tupelo, was taken into custody. He was being held Monday night at the Lee County Jail and charges are pending.
The incident created a frenzy of sorts but left the police to investigate in traffic-less silence.
After receiving the call, police roped off about a half mile in all directions around the bank. Members of the bomb squad X-rayed the package and determined it still looked suspicious, so they retrieved it from the back of the trunk using a robot.
A small explosion was heard about 2:20 p.m., but Carleton said he could not comment on the removal or explosion of the package. He did say, however, the package did not contain an explosive device, and that the package was rendered safe.
With traffic at bay for several hours, the intersection was very quiet as police worked to determine the nature of the package.
The FedEx office near the intersection was extremely slow on what’s normally a busy day for the workers. Employees at A Gold Star Chinese Restaurant were sent home for the afternoon, since no customers were allowed near the building.
The scene was declared safe about 3:30 p.m.
Contact Sheena Barnett at (662) 678-1580 or sheena.barnett@djournal.com.

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