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Suspicious package found to be harmless

Maddie Hanna | Friday, September 15, 2006

A package delivered to the Galvin Life Science Center Thursday afternoon initially generated suspicion of a bomb threat, but a several-hour police investigation determined the box was harmless, a University official said.

The box – a package delivered to Director of the Freimann Life Science Center Mark Suckow – actually contained “promotional materials for a scientific company,” University spokesman Don Wycliff said Thursday night.

“In this case, it was a false alarm, but better safe than sorry,” he said.

Police taped off a large area around Galvin as dedication ceremonies to honor the new Jordan Hall of Science progressed just across now-closed Juniper Road.

Suckow received the “small package” at his office in Galvin “around 2:30 or 3” Thursday afternoon, Wycliff said. He said he had “no idea who actually delivered” the package – a box with no return address, “excessive postage” with no cancelled stamps and, according to police officers, information missing from the address.

Those details raised flags, Wycliff said, but Suckow’s concern was heightened given his position as the current president of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science.

“That’s the reason he called the police,” Wycliff said. “There’s so much controversy that surrounds that issue these days – he’s particularly alert to these things.”

Suckow called the Notre Dame Security/Police, who, upon arrival, “considered it important enough to call the South Bend police bomb squad,” Wycliff said.

The bomb squad X-rayed the package and found it contained four compartments, but officers couldn’t determine its density.

“No detonator, no wires,” Wycliff said around 5 p.m. Thursday. “It’s a matter now of determining exactly what this is.”

When asked if the threat could be connected to the Jordan Hall dedication, Wycliff said, “You know, who knows. It may be a prank, it may be anything.”

Around 5:25 p.m., police took down the tape perimeter. The two fire trucks, ambulance, South Bend bomb squad van and many of the police cars left. Wycliff said the bomb squad removed the package from Galvin and took it “somewhere off site” in order to safely determine its contents.

“They’re still not sure what, if anything” is inside, he said at 5:30 pm.

An hour later, Wycliff said the squad had opened the box and found the promotional materials.

While no other packages delivered to Galvin were investigated Thursday, Wycliff said he was “told some of the back offices” on the Juniper Road-side of Galvin were evacuated.

He did not know of any past similar threats or investigations.

In September 2004, The Observer reported that police evacuated 200 students and staff from the LaFortune Student Center after an employee discovered two suspicious packages, both of which turned out to be false alarms.