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By Matt Kawahara, Bill Lindelof, Ed Fletcher, Dale Kasler and Sam Stanton
A fresh plume of heavy black smoke is pouring from the Roseville Galleria this afternoon as police continue to try and determine whether a backpack left there during a barricade situation this morning contained any explosives.
There was no immediate word on what caused the fresh smoke, but Roseville officials say the suspect in the siege of the mall has been taken to the Roseville city jail.
The suspect's name has not yet been released, but the incident ended with no injuries to customers or employees.
The drama began this morning after a man in his early to mid-20s walked into the GameStop store on the second floor and began talking incoherently to clerks, and then ordered them out.
The suspect apparently set a fire inside the mall after it was evacuated, but the mall's sprinkler system appeared to have suppressed portions of the fire after a period during which a large plume of smoke billowed from the mall, the largest in the Sacramento region.
Police and firefighters delayed entering the GameStop store where a fire apparently was set because of concerns over the backpack.
Officials said the man took over the store after telling the clerks something about his sister being held captive.
He then ordered the GameStop workers out, sparking the evacuation and closure of the mall.
The mother of the GameStop manager said she spoke to her son after the mall evacuation to make certain everyone was all right.
"I called him right away," Norma Delgado told The Bee. "The store was evacuated and he's doing fine."
Delgado said her son told her that the suspect came in and ordered workers to leave.
"He didn't tell me much, he just told me he was ordered to get out, and he did," she said. "I'm still a little shaky."
Misty Briglia, who works inside the Macy's next to the GameStop, said workers initially were told not to alarm customers or let them know precisely what was going on until everyone was ordered to evacuate at about 11:15 a.m.
"I'm a little freaked out," she said.
The evacuation led to a massive response to the mall, a sprawling 10-year-old center that is one of the area's top shopping destinations.
Police and fire units surrounded the buildings while shoppers and customers moved away from the mall as smoke billowed overhead.
It was not immediately clear whether the suspect, who could be seen handcuffed and being questioned by officers sitting on a mall bench, was armed.
Reports that shots had been fired were dismissed by Roseville police, who said the sound was from a non-lethal device being used to break a window.
The Galleria has transformed Roseville into one of the retail hubs of the Sacramento area.
Not only has it imported such upscale merchants as Tiffany and Louis Vitton, it's also sparked the development of several shopping centers in the adjacent area. Last February Hyatt opened a hotel next door.
In addition, the mall serves as "home court" for the Sacramento Capitals team tennis franchise.
A $240 million expansion, concluded in November 2008, brought 100 more stores to the mall and signified the Galleria's ability to persevere in a difficult economy. It also irritated Sacramento city officials, who accused owner Westfield Corp. of lavishing attention on the Roseville mall while neglecting the company's Downtown Plaza.
The incident sparked heightened security measures at Arden Fair Mall, where Sacramento police came out to patrol the parking areas to make certain there were no problems.
Arden Fair security manager Steve Reed said he monitored the situation at the Galleria through law enforcement and media contacts, but that there were no problems at his mall today.
"Obviously, our main concern is the safety of the customers," Reed said. "We heightened our patrols, made them more frequent and actually had law enforcement on the property patrolling today because of this incident."
Ironically, Reed said, he began his day at 6 a.m. by distributing information from the U.S. Department of homeland Security on how merchants and security should respond to such an incident. Malls typically have extensive security procedures and surveillance devices, and Reed said they train regularly to respond to problems.
Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015.