1900 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, FL
NAPLES — Among the most popular gifts of the holiday season, the small grey box abandoned in a Coastland Center parking must rank somewhere.
For more than two hours on Thursday, the package and its contents captivated scores of people, from the firefighters and bomb squad members called to gauge its contents, to mall shoppers waiting for the scene to be cleared so they could return to their cars.
In the end, the package appeared little more than an ill-advised effort to give away an unwanted gift — a silver-plated holiday musical egg.
Mall shopper Ashley Minor discovered the package around 2:30 p.m. in the ‘B’ parking lot between Macy’s and The Cheesecake Factory. The exterior advertised the holiday egg, and it appeared to have been opened previously. The box lay on a white divider line between parking spots, and a note on the outside encouraged its finder to “take me home.”
“Idiot me, I was going to pick it up,” Minor said. “This lady said maybe we should take it to security.”
They delivered it to Macy’s, where a call to dispatchers drew responders from the Naples Police and Fire departments, Collier County Sheriff’s Office and the Southwest Florida Regional Bomb Squad.
Deputies cordoned off the parking lot and established a staging area by Macy’s. Bomb squad members in padded suits waddled to and from the obscured package, a robot in tow, as shoppers watched from the margins.
“Oh that’s a robot?” one woman remarked.
“No, that’s a real man in a suit,” another responded.
Mike King, 31, drove to Coastland Center from Cape Coral for some last-minute Christmas shopping with his wife. His car was among those cordoned off.
“I was rushing her through stores, and then come to find out we didn’t need to rush,” he chuckled. “We’ll be grabbing dinner here soon. It’s nuts.”
Inside the mall, shoppers swarmed stores unaware. A few security guards blocking exits were the only indicators of anything unusual.
By 5 p.m., officials had their answer. X-Rays taken by the robot revealed that the package indeed contained a 2001 Christmas silver-plated musical holiday egg, an item made by company Wallace Silversmiths.
A similar gift on ebay.com shows a starting bid of $29.99.
The egg would not be taken home, Naples Police Sgt. Jim Goldplatt told reporters.
“We’ll take it to evidence,” he said.
Daily News correspondent Lance Shearer contributed to this report.