As a woman wandered aimlessly through a Tampa, Fla., Walmart with a child Saturday evening, a store security guard noticed something didn’t seem right. She opened the packaging for an odd array of items she hadn’t paid for such as matches, brad nails, denatured alcohol and a Mason jar. Then, police said, she tried to light a wick made from a shoelace.
The guard and an off-duty officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who was in the store at the time, stopped the woman before she could light her explosive device, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Tuesday. The woman, 37-year-old Emily Stallard of Tampa, was arrested and charged with attempted arson, fire bombing, child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and battery of an officer, according to records.
Stallard “had all the supplies she needed to cause mass destruction at her disposal,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement.
There were no immediate details on the child who was with Stallard in the store, including the age, relationship to Stallard and who currently has custody of the child. Stallard remained in jail Tuesday and is being held on a $8,500 bond. Her motive for the alleged in-store bomb making and probable firebombing is unclear, and the public defender’s office assigned to represent Stallard could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
“We take the safety and security of our customers and associates seriously,” Walmart Spokesman Casey Staheli said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “We appreciate the quick response of local law enforcement and are assisting them as they investigate the matter.”
The company was cooperating with the investigation.
Staheli noted in recent years, the company has increased training for its cashiers and staff who work in theft prevention in de-escalation and other crime-deterring practices.
Chronister praised the security guard for flagging down the off-duty officer and for speaking up when he noticed something suspicious.
“Had it not been for an alert off-duty law enforcement officer and a watchful security staff at Walmart, she may have followed through with her plans to cause an explosion inside the store,” Chronister said.
“You don’t have to tackle a bad guy to be a hero. One phone call to law enforcement when you spot something or someone suspicious can ultimately save lives.“