Police were called to the Sheetz at 17th Street and Pleasant Valley Boulevard Monday afternoon after receiving a report of a suspicious package near the gas pumps.
But after a tense 90 minutes, the package was revealed to be nothing more than a forgotten briefcase.
According to Altoona Police Sgt. Brian Freiwald, a call came in at 4:02 p.m. alerting officers that there was a package left at the store.
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Police officers look on as an abandoned briefcase is examined in the parking lot of the 17th Street and Pleasant Valley Boulevard Sheetz. The South Central Mountain Regional Task Force’s armored vehicle is parked next to the gas pumps.
Sheetz employees gather in the parking lot of the adjacent Reliance Bank while police investigate a briefcase Monday at the 17th Street and Pleasant Valley Boulevard store.
It was "out of an overabundance of caution" that police went to the security lengths they did, Freiwald said, which included shutting down and evacuating Sheetz before setting up a perimeter and cordoning it off with yellow caution tape.
Employees were kept behind the store's car wash building, and police cruisers blocked all entryways.
The briefcase's owner turned out to be Ken Eash, an employee of Smail Acura in Greensburg. Eash said he had driven to Altoona to return a customer's car in exchange for the dealership's courtesy car when the two got to talking and he set down the silver number-lock briefcase.
"I forgot it ... when we went our separate ways," Eash said sheepishly.
By the time he called the customer back to tell him that he'd forgotten it, he was told a bomb squad already was on scene.
Freiwald said while police had to proceed with caution, they felt comfortable retrieving the briefcase once Eash's story checked out.
By 5:22 p.m., employees began to trickle back into work while officers cleared caution tape from the scene.
Eash said he was glad the briefcase was returned, as finding one to replace it would have been difficult.
Along with uniformed officers from Logan Township and Altoona, Altoona police's criminal division investigators also were called to the scene, Freiwald said.
Altoona Fire Department and AMED were on standby.