SWEETWATER, Fla. (WSVN) — Authorities took a man into custody after he reportedly planned to set off an explosive at one of South Florida’s busiest malls.
Miami resident Vicente Solano was arrested Friday night after the FBI said he had plans to detonate a bomb at Dolphin Mall in Sweetwater, Undercover FBI agents thwarted the planned attack before he could carry it out..
Authorities told the Miami Herald there was no indication the suspect was directed by the Islamic State.
The arrest left shoppers stunned. “That’s so scary,” said Danielle Turnage. “I mean, that just freaks me out. I don’t know if I’m going to come here for a little bit.”
“It’s pretty scary. It kind of makes me feel a little uncomfortable,” said Elizabeth Matias.
The news was traumatic to Alex and Lilly Uribe, a couple who said they ran for their lives back on Aug. 19, during a shooting scare at Dave and Buster’s in Dolphin Mall.
“We saw people running into the restaurant, basically, and they were just screaming, ‘Shooter, shooter!'” said Lilly.
That scare sent terrified shoppers scurrying for cover as multiple law enforcement agencies evacuated the mall and set up a perimeter.
“I grabbed the baby and just ran for dear life,” said Alex. “I was passing people left and right, and she was crying, holding the balloon, so yeah, it was a little traumatic.”
Authorities said that incident turned out to be a false alarm.
In the case of Friday’s arrest, it was a confidential informant who tipped off an FBI-led joint terrorism task force of Solano’s plan.
Sweetwater Police posted a message on Instagram. It read, “SWPD work with all agencies to ensure public safety. We worked with the FBI to ensure confidentiality and provide for public safety during today’s arrest. We continue with our mission to protect and serve.”
A spokesperson for the police department confirmed to 7News that the Instagram post was related to the bomb plot investigation.
Dolphin Mall attracts thousands of families and tourists on any given Friday night. Shoppers said it’s an unsettling reality that their safety could have been in jeopardy.
“It’s sad that you have to live that way, in fear, especially with everything that’s going on in the world right now,” said Tyree Turnage. “You don’t know what to do. You can’t be safe to leave the house almost.”
A Dolphin Mall spokesperson issued a statement to 7News that reads, “While Dolphin Mall regularly partners with local and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of our customers, it is inappropriate for us to comment on this case due to the ongoing FBI investigation.”
The Herald reported that Solano will have his first appearance in a Miami federal court on Monday.
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