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Bond denied to mall bomb-scare suspect

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

A man, who allegedly caused a bomb scare at the Santa Claus display at Southlake Mall on Wednesday -- while dressed as an elf -- was denied bond in Clayton County Magistrate Court Thursday.

Judge Bobby Simmons denied bond to William C. Caldwell, III, 45, on felony charges of terroristic threats and false imprisonment, which meant he had to remain in jail.

Simmons did set bond totaling $27,500 on the charges of false public alarm, disorderly conduct, reckless conduct, simple assault, and hoax devices.

The judge said the issue of bond on the felony charges may be addressed again during a preliminary hearing, which was set for Dec. 10 at 3p.m., in Clayton County Magistrate Court.

According to Morrow Police, Caldwell walked up to the Santa Shop and told James Austin, who was dressed as Santa, that he (Caldwell) had dynamite in a bag.

In a warrantless arrest affidavit filed in Magistrate Court, police said Caldwell "placed the bag down in front of the Santa Shop where children can take pictures with Santa Claus."

Around 6:45 p.m., Wednesday, the Southlake Mall security office was notified that a man dressed as an elf was acting suspiciously at the Santa Claus display in the lower level of the mall, according to a press statement issued by the Morrow Police Department.

Morrow police units, who were working security at the mall, were also notified.

"Morrow Police units and mall security arrived within a matter of minutes and immediately detained William Caldwell," police said in the statement.

As a precaution, the mall was evacuated "without incident," police said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Clayton County Police Bomb Disposal Teams responded to the scene to handle the suspicious package, which turned out to be a hoax, according to the warrantless arrest affidavit.

Thursday, Caldwell appeared in court wearing an orange, inmate jumpsuit. He was shackled at the ankles, and handcuffed.

His case was assigned to the Clayton Judicial Circuit Public Defender's office for legal representation. Several people, who identified themselves as co-workers of Caldwell, showed up at the courthouse in support of the suspect.

A woman who said she is Caldwell's supervisor at a company called Worktec, said Caldwell has worked for the company, as a contractor, at Fort Gillem in Forest Park, for 7 1/2 years.

The woman, who declined to give her name, said Worktec employs people with disabilities, and said Caldwell works at Fort Gillem as a janitor.

"When I heard it on the news this morning, I was blown away," the woman said.

"He [Caldwell] gets along very well with all of his co-workers. We've never had an issue," she said.

The other people who identified themselves as co-workers -- but also did not want to be identified -- echoed those statements, and said they were shocked to hear of the alleged mall incident.

Meantime, Capt. James Callaway, of the Morrow Police Department, said in a written statement: "We have ... banned him [Caldwell] from the mall for 50 years."