Dan Keller was working alone inside the GameStop at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville, Calif., when the first customer of the day walked in.
"We were bantering back and forth he wanted some products," the 36-year-old store manager told The Bee Friday.
Then, Keller said, "He suggested that I leave the store, cause he was going to blow it up."
Keller fled, calling security and setting into motion the rapid evacuation of the Galleria without anyone suffering injury.
The fire that 23-year-old Alexander Corney Piggee allegedly set after Keller fled ultimately damaged up to a quarter of the 1.3-million-square-foot mall. Twenty stores suffered heavy damage, fire officials said Friday. Water is 4 inches deep in places, and flooring, concrete, piping and other debris covers the floor on the first and second floors between Macy's and JCPenney.
There still is no timetable for when the mall may reopen, but with the holiday shopping season approaching, officials said they hoped to see at least parts of it back in business before the end of next month. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in the aftermath.
The mall remained under tight security Friday because officials were still trying to determine whether Piggee carried a bomb into the mall hidden in a backpack.
Piggee is being held without bail at the Placer County jail on charges of arson "under conditions likely to cause great bodily injury and causing damages and losses in excess of $6.5 million," burglary and making criminal threats.
He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday at 1 p.m.
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