A McLennan County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad investigated a suspicious ice chest and suitcase found Saturday morning near the ALICO building, shutting down several downtown blocks and prematurely ending a memorial held for bikers killed in the May 17 Twin Peaks shootout.
Sheriff’s Capt. M.R. “Bubba” Colyer said the nearly 75 bikers who showed up to the scheduled rally in front of the McLennan County Courthouse were asked to leave about 11 a.m. while a robot was deployed to remove the packages and investigate their contents.
The cooler and suitcase were found at the intersection of South Fourth Street and Austin Avenue by a deputy who was on scene for the biker rally, Sheriff Parnell McNamara said.
There were no explosives or dangerous materials found in the cooler or suitcase, and authorities left the area around 12:40 p.m., McNamara said.
He said officers learned the containers had been left there by someone who expected a friend to pick them up. The cooler contained some food items, he added.
“It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” McNamara said. “We just can’t take a chance.”
He said city police began the investigation but the sheriff’s office took over as soon as the robot was deployed because the bomb squad belongs to the county. Officers established a perimeter from Sixth to Fourth streets and from Washington to Austin avenues to secure the area.
Waco police and fire officials were on the scene assisting, Colyer said.
Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits at 508 Austin Ave. was closed from about 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., manager Michael Suttle said.
“We were lucky, because a lot of things like this go on a lot longer,” he said. “But we had people waiting to get in by the time we opened back up.”
Carla Garcia, a staff member at Cafe Cappucino at 100 N. Sixth St., said the cafe never closed.
“We saw all the police cars, but never learned until later what it was all about,” she said.
Wendy McLennan, who works at Bloomingals floral boutique at 600 Austin Ave., said she heard about the activity secondhand.
“Someone coming in from making a delivery mentioned there was something going on at the courthouse,” she said. “And someone else came into the store saying her apartment house had been evacuated and she needed some place to wait. But business never stopped.”