Bomb squad closes Chapman Hall because of suspicious box

Ivar Vong

A police bomb squad rushed to the scene of a suspicious package discovered inside Chapman Hall early Thursday morning.

Department Public Safety first responded to the incident at approximately 6:30 a.m. and proceeded to create a security perimeter around portions of East 13th Avenue and the adjacent Johnson Hall parking lot. 13th Avenue was closed to most traffic. An unidentified custodial worker called it in. Two members of the Eugene Police Department’s Explosive Disposal Unit and an on-duty patrol member arrived just before 7 a.m.

DPS Capt. Ed Rinne said that the item was a large and unmarked cardboard box wrapped with duct tape that leaned against the side of a student desk in room 207. It was later determined that it was a package intended to be mailed.

“Our officers assessed it and inspected it and determined that the best course of action was to contact the Eugene Police Department’s explosives unit,” Rinne said.  

The suspicious package was later determined to be non-hazardous, and an e-mail alert was sent out through campus e-mails around 10:00 a.m. stating the building was safe to re-enter.

Because of the early morning nature of the event, only four classes were affected.

University spokesperson Julie Brown said the University’s emergency text message system was not used because this was not a confirmed threat as determined by DPS and EPD.

Few staff members outside of the custodial staff responsible for discovering the package were in the building at the time.

Rinne said that the individual responsible for leaving the package did so with no malicious intent, and it was honest mistake on the unidentified individual’s part.  

“The student felt bad, and I guess he was going to mail the package, but forgot about it and left it there last night,” Rinne said. “If there’s a suspicious package though like this one, based on the way it was found, it’s in everyone’s best interest to notify authorities.”

EPD spokesperson Jenna McCulley would not confirm DPS’s conclusion but said EPD concluded the package was non-threatening. McCulley also would not divulge details concerning the cause of the incident. McCulley also said that a standard investigation would be conducted concerning the incident, and that charges related to an act of Disorderly Conduct could still be pursued.

The EPD’s explosive’s team is typically made up of eight individuals with one sergeant as a commanding officer, with other members added as needed. The team did not respond in full force Thursday, and only sent two detectives, McCulley said.  

“These members are part of the team on an ad-hoc basis,” McCulley said, “They perform this responsibility in addition to other cases.”

Although few staff or students were cleared from Chapman this morning, many were told to remain outside of their offices during the DPS and EPD response.  

“We wanted to know what was going on and where it was happening,” Robert D. Clark Honors College Assistant Dean Lori Vegas said. Vegas’s office is located in Chapman Hall.

“We were told to wait outside and that there was a suspicious package found,” Robert D. Clark Honors College business assistant Kate Ketcham said. “We knew we were going to have a long coffee break.”

On Thursday afternoon University President Richard Lariviere praised the law enforcement response to the incident.

“As far as I know it was appropriate and effective,” Lariviere said. “I don’t know more than the general public, and I haven’t received a report yet. I got the early morning phone call and the all clear when it was over.”

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