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This photo was released by police in Burlington, Massachusetts, showing a man with an umbrella in its carry case, mistaken for a rifle AP/Burlington Police Department

Hysteria at department store over man armed with .... an umbrella

A mall near Boston was evacuated over reports that man was carrying a rifle. He wasn’t.

IT’S LIKE JAMES Bond – but in reverse. A massive security alert was triggered and a shopping centre evacuated after reports of a man carrying a rifle.

It turned out that the man was only carrying an umbrella.

The Burlington Mall near Boston, USA, was evacuated and closed for more than two hours as a police SWAT team wearing body armour and carrying shields searched for an armed man.

Police had received five calls about a short white man with a grey shirt and a backpack who walked in a bathroom carrying what appeared to be a rifle through the Nordstrom department store, Burlington Police Chief Michael Kent said at a news conference. Around 40 local, state and federal officers went to the mall after police received the first call just after 10am, he said.

It turned out the man was an employee of the Lahey Clinic, a nearby hospital, who had stopped at the mall before work and was carrying an umbrella. State police and the clinic said the man called police as soon as he realized he fit the description of the person being sought.

Police questioned him and determined he was not a threat. Detectives are certain that the supposed rifle was actually an umbrella in a “sling-like case,” Kent said.

In a statement, the clinic said the employee “is pleased he took appropriate action and contacted the police, however, he feels terrible about the situation.” The hospital would not identify the man and said he asked that the media respect his privacy.

“He was quite cooperative,” Kent said. “He did nothing wrong and we appreciate that he called us.”

The mall, an upscale shopping centre about 15 miles northwest of Boston with more than 185 stores, was featured in the 2009 Kevin James comedy, Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

But don’t blame those frightened shoppers. There have been plenty of instances where weapons have been hidden inside the most innocuous of everyday items…

Hysteria at department store over man armed with .... an umbrella
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- Additional reporting by AP