PORTLAND – Portland police said the discovery Tuesday afternoon of what looked to be a homemade bomb in the parking lot of a pharmacy that had just been robbed was probably more than coincidence.

The tense situation forced police to close a section of Ocean Avenue for more than four hours while the department’s bomb squad examined the device which was described as a foot-long pipe with electrical tape and plastic tubing.

Investigators said the device was made to look like a pipe bomb but did not contain any explosive materials.

The robbery suspect left the Rite Aid Pharmacy at 701 Forest Avenue on foot without any drugs and was still at large Tuesday night.

Portland’s acting police chief, Mike Sauschuck, said he could not connect the robbery with the pipe bomb but added, “It would be an incredible set of coincidences if in fact these separate incidents were not related.”

According to police, a man entered the Rite Aid pharmacy around 12:50 p.m., approached the pharmacy counter, and handed the pharmacist a note demanding that they hand over prescription drugs.

Lt. Gary Rogers said police are not releasing the brand name of the drug that the robber wrote on the note since it is part of their ongoing investigation.
After waiting for a few moments for the pharmacist to return, the suspect left the building without the drugs.

He was last seen leaving on foot in the direction of Ocean Avenue. Police released a photograph of the suspect, which was captured on the pharmacy’s video surveillance cameras.

The suspect is described as a white male, between 5’8 and 5’10 inches tall. He is said to weigh about 160 pounds and appeared to be in his 30s.

Police said the robber wore a tan baseball cap, eye glasses, a light colored fleece jacket, jeans and white sneakers.

When police arrived they used a dog to track the suspect but he could not be located.

What they did discover was a suspicious looking device underneath the roadside Rite Aid sign on Ocean Avenue.

“This was a device meant to look like a pipe bomb,” Sauschuck said.

The department’s bomb squad, which used a robot to handle the pipe initially, determined that the materials inside – investigators said it resembled cardboard – was inert.

As a precautionary measure, Rogers said police shut down Ocean Avenue, between Hershey and Codman streets, for about four hours. Meanwhile, traffic moved along Forest Avenue.

The case remains under investigation. Portland police are urging anyone with information to call the department at 874-8533. Anonymous phone tips can be left on the department’s crime tip line at 874-8584.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]