Police Evacuate Walmart over Mystery 'Meth Operation' Bottle Spill. It Turned Out to Be Cleaning Product

A Walmart store in North Carolina was evacuated yesterday after police wrongly suspected a mysterious substance in the store was a bottle-contained meth operation.

Police and firefighters attended the scene on South Main Street in High Point shortly after 5 p.m. Employees had spotted a liquid that appeared to have spilled from a man's backpack. WGHP (Fox8) reported the substance was seen trailing from the bakery into a bathroom.

The suspect was then seen leaving the store without the backpack. Staff said when they tried to clean up the liquid it changed color, indicating a chemical reaction had taken place.

On Twitter, the High Police Police Department confirmed a hazardous liquid investigation was launched and the Walmart had been completely evacuated for "safety reasons."

Initially, it confirmed the cause of the spill was a "small meth operation contained to a bottle" and said officers from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation were called to assist. Police said the Walmart would be closed until a cleanup of the suspicious liquid had occurred.

@HighPointPolice @HPFD on scene of Hazmat (hazardous liquid) investigation around bathroom area at Walmart on S Main St. Store has been evacuated for safety reasons. FD and PD will continue to investigate to determine cause. pic.twitter.com/4u1JFYazXb

— HighPoint(NC)Police (@HighPointPolice) June 24, 2019

But all was not as it seemed, officials said in an update roughly three hours later. "Further testing determined that substance in bottle was not meth lab," High Point Police said on its social media channel, adding: "Substance identified as industrial strength cleaner."

The police department's statement noted: "There have been no reported injuries to patrons, staff or police and fire personnel. Police are working with store to identify suspect." It said the store would be turned back over to Walmart staff who could then choose when to reopen.

According to WFMY-TV, deputies said no charges would be filed against the man who allegedly spilled the chemicals and noted he had been co-operative. He was not named. Walmart said staff hoped to have the outlet, which is open 24 hours, available to customers by midnight.

Witnesses who were at the scene told Fox 8 the situation was alarming because of ongoing drug problems in the area. "It's unreal, it has gotten really bad," said resident Tina Sheeron, indicating that she no longer goes to the High Point Walmart because of its reputation. In January, a fire broke out in one of the store's aisles that was found to be arson, Fox 8 reported.

In February, North Carolina police released images of two suspects who allegedly slipped razor blades under shopping cart handles in a Siler City Walmart. The investigation was launched after two people sustained injuries from the blades, including an employee at the store. Walmart said that it was "aware of the situation."

File photo: A Walmart store is seen in Landover, Maryland, December 31, 2014. A North Carolina Walmart was evacuated this week after police wrongly suspected a mysterious substance in the store was a bottle-contained meth operation. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty