2 suspect packages defused

Police cautiously approach the area where a suspicious package was being investigated at Alhambra Hall & Park in Mount Pleasant on Wednesday. The package was disposed of by a robot.

With its moss-draped, majestic oaks and picturesque, historic homes, the Old Village in Mount Pleasant is typically a peaceful place where residents say crime is rare.

But the serene atmosphere changed dramatically for about five hours Wednesday when police, fire and EMS personnel converged on Alhambra Hall & Park to deal with a suspicious package.

It was one of two "suspicious package" calls law enforcement answered Wednesday.

Construction workers found a duffel bag containing cylindrical objects at 1:40 p.m. outside the Charleston Harbor Bible Church at 524 Arlington Drive, according to Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon.

Deputies shut down that road until the Charleston County Explosive Response Team determined that the items were old flares, Cannon said.

Deputies evacuated the adjacent business, Money Man Pawn, as a precaution but allowed employees to reopen at 3:45 p.m.

The bomb scare in Mount Pleasant closed the park entrance at McCants and Pitt streets and forced the relocation of a children's carnival scheduled for 3 p.m.

"Oh my gosh. That's scary. This is the worst thing in years," said Helen Kirkland, who had planned to let her golden retriever, Georgia, run at the park around noon.

Lifelong village resident Jim Lea expressed surprise. "I think it's very strange. I can't think of a safer neighborhood," he said.

A man walking his dog called police about 8:50 a.m. to report something that looked like a bundle of dynamite on a park bench, Mount Pleasant police Maj. Frank Riccio said.

Officers looking through binoculars spied a bundle, but they couldn't tell whether the football-sized lump was dynamite, old flares or something else altogether.

Mount Pleasant police called on their counterparts in Charleston, and the city sent its bomb squad, Riccio said. They dug a hole about 200 yards from the park bench where they could dispose of the bundle with kerosene.

A bomb robot carried the bundle to the hole, and ignited the kerosene with a flare. "There was no explosion," Riccio said. "We don't know what it was. We handled it as though it were real. With it being burnt we'll never know." The park reopened Wednesday afternoon, police said.

Cannon said deputies might never know where the duffel bag found outside the West Ashley church came from. Workers staking out a lot for paving found the bag.

Deputies attached an alligator clip to one end of the bag and hoisted it to dump out the contents to get a closer look, from a safe distance away, Cannon said. The bag contained two cylindrical-shaped flares that were 10-12 inches long and a little over an inch in diameter and a half-dozen smaller flares, Cannon said. The Explosive Response Team removed the flares for disposal.