SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — A suspicious item found on a Santa Monica bus Monday turned out to be a fake device that was used in a security training exercise over the weekend, authorities said Monday.
The driver of a Big Blue Bus from Santa Monica flagged down LAPD officers near Centinela Avenue and Culver Boulevard after the device was found around 8:18 a.m., Lt. Marco Munoz told KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz.
“There were some red tubes with tape wrapped around it, and some other little items in there that gave the appearance that it could be a device,” Munoz said.
Police evacuated nearby businesses and called in the bomb squad, effectively shutting down a seven-block radius at the intersection of Centinela and Culver as well as a second location at the corner of Pico and La Brea.
The closure backed up traffic along Centinela and Culver during morning rush hour before the scene was cleared around 10 a.m.
Command posts were set up at both locations until a city official advised officers of a weekend training exercise held by Santa Monica Transit in the same location.
Big Blue Bus representative Suja Lowenthal said the company hosted the event Saturday, which allowed bus drivers from five different agencies to compete in various events – one involving fake bombs hidden in four separate buses to see whether drivers could find them.
But employees apparently forgot to remove the fake devices, and two were detected before the buses left the yard this morning. The remaining two devices were discovered by the the passenger and driver while the buses were in service.
“The Big Blue Bus is very apologetic and really regretful that this took place,” Lowenthal said. “Again, it was as a result of a communication error and it won’t happen again.”
Santa Monica Police Sgt. Rick Lewis told CBS2’s Art Barron he was “angered” that no law enforcement agency was notified about the exercise held on Saturday.