Cleveland 19 News receives bomb threat against 5 Targets as stores face LGBTQ+ controversy

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 4:18 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Cleveland 19 News received a bomb threat Friday afternoon against five Target stores in the area.

The threat, received at 12:26 p.m. via email, centered around Target’s LGBTQ+ merchandise.

Immediately jumping to action, our staff made reports with each local police department as well as the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Cleveland 19 News receives bomb threat against 5 Targets as stores face LGBTQ+ controversy
Cleveland 19 News receives bomb threat against 5 Targets as stores face LGBTQ+ controversy(Source: WOIO)

It was not immediately known if the threats were legitimate, though precautions were quickly taken to ensure no one got hurt.

The threatening email was aimed at Targets in Jackson Township, Boardman, Stow, Niles, and Monaca, Penn.

19 News spoke with Target shoppers in Jackson Township hours after the threat.

“It’s going on all the way around the country,” said Darryl Wampler. “I mean everywhere you go there’s always something.”

The threats came amid Target, a national corporation, pulling some of its LGBTQ+ merchandise due to intense backlash from customers who tipped over displays, according to the Associated Press.

“I know a lot of people around here are not a fan of LGBT that kind of stuff me personally I mean it’s whatever,” said shopper Quinlan Shell. “I never thought someone would go as far as a bomb threat, especially here.”

According to reports Target removed some Pride merchandise after some customers threatened employees and even knocked over displays. The AP said Target moved its Pride merchandise to the back of some Southern stores following the backlash.

“I stand behind Target selling whatever kind of merchandise they like and I always enjoy seeing all the LGBTQ stuff that they have, I’m not really shocked I guess by hearing that but it is unfortunate,” said Jackson Township Target shopper Justin Walencik.

“Well, I don’t think they should’ve done that,” said Wampler. “People’s people. I don’t care who you are or who anybody else is they’re their own people. I mean they’re just like me.”

But some shoppers like Timothy Adkins were glad Target pulled the Pride merchandise.

A law making swatting calls a fourth-degree felony in Ohio went into effect on April 3 after being signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in January.

The Cleveland FBI also previously said anyone making swatting calls could be charged with federal offenses and could face jail time.

“If you’re willing to make a bomb threat you’re just a dangerous person overall who shouldn’t really be free in my sense, you could hurt someone,” said Shell.

Cleveland 19 News has reached out to Target’s corporate offices for comment. This story will be updated once it’s received.

The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland sent 19 News the following statement, “The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland does not condone violence under any circumstance. The threats made to Target recently are a disheartening development especially when our community is preparing to come together to celebrate our Pride. We are in alignment with the position Human Rights Campaign has recently taken, calling on Target to stand firm in the face of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and rhetoric.

Some local news outlets in Utah are also reporting bomb threats to several targets in Utah. Some stores there were also evacuated but police found that the threat was also a hoax.