Originally created 06/05/99

Robber uses fake bomb to threaten hotel clerk



A robber threatened to blow up a downtown hotel Friday -- but the home-made "bomb" was a fake, police said.

Around 6:30 a.m., a robber stole an undisclosed amount of money from the Econo Lodge at 444 Broad St., telling a clerk that the brown paper bag he carried contained a bomb, Chief Deputy Ronald Strength of the Richmond County Sheriff's Department said.

The bomb was timed to explode in 30 minutes, the robber told Richard Gray, the hotel clerk.

"This is no joke," the robber reportedly said, and demanded money, Chief Deputy Strength said.

Mr. Gray gave him money from the register and the robber fled out of the front door, leaving the brown bag, Chief Deputy Strength said. Mr. Gray telephoned police from the lobby, and hotel guests were evacuated.

Inside the bag was a silver cylinder with exposed wires attached to a timer, Chief Deputy Strength said.

"It appeared to be a homemade bomb," he said.

But within 20 minutes, a bomb squad investigator determined it was a fake. The device turned out to be tinfoil wrapped around some batteries stacked on top of each other, Chief Deputy Strength said.

Had the device actually been a bomb, the explosives team from Fort Gordon would have been called out to assist, Chief Deputy Strength said.

The robber is described as a white male, clean-shaven, 6 feet, 220 pounds. He was wearing a black baseball cap and a brown shirt, the chief deputy said.