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January 13, 2006
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'Bomb' in SF Starbucks turns out to be flashlight

SAN FRANCISCO, California-- What authorities thought was a bomb in a Starbucks coffee shop turned out to be a flashlight casing, police said Thursday.

A forensic analysis "revealed the absence of any explosive material," a police statement said.

Police initially said the device found in the store's bathroom Monday was powerful enough to seriously injure or kill someone if it had exploded. Police evacuated about 100 people from the Starbucks and apartments above it.

A man arrested on suspicion of planting an explosive device, Ronald Schouten, was still being held Thursday on an unrelated burglary charge. But police said his explanation on how the flashlight ended up in the coffee shop was credible.

Schouten, 44, told KPIX-TV that he found the flashlight in the street and accidentally dropped it in the bathroom.

"I love that Starbucks," Schouten said in an interview with the station. "The people are saints. They know I'm homeless. They let me drink coffee for 50 cents. I love those people."

The station reported that the flashlight was filled with corroded batteries.

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