The Westfield Southgate Shopping Center was closed for more than an hour yesterday due to fears that someone had spread a suspicious powder material in the mall. In actuality, a man was simply paying his final respects to his fiancee.
According to Sarasota Police Department Lt. Pat Ledwith, the man’s fiancee died several months ago. She had a connection to LensCrafters, so the man chose to scatter some of her cremated ashes around the store in the mall. Ledwith said he had been leaving remains at other places around town, as well.
“People handle grief in different ways,” Ledwith said. “This is a way he was choosing to kind of honor her memory, places they have been and places they liked to go.”
The man was identified following interviews with witnesses at the mall. The police made contact with the man today, which was the first time he discovered that he had caused any problems. Ledwith said the man was apologetic for creating a commotion.
“We don’t anticipate any charges on our end from this incident,” Ledwith said. “He was very grief-stricken over the loss of this loved one, and we have offered him grief counseling through our victim advocate to help him through this.”
Ledwith said the department would review its handling of the incident to see what worked and what didn’t, but Chief Bernadette DiPino said she was satisfied with the response.
“We followed our protocols,” DiPino said. “We have to do that. We have an obligation to protect the public.”
Contact David Conway at [email protected].