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'Suspicious' mail sent to LDS seminary in Syracuse

Students evacuate, but no powder is found in envelope

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 4 2015 9:26 p.m. MDT

Emergency crews carry a suspicious envelope from the Syracuse Junior High LDS Seminary building Tuesday. Fifty-seven students were evacuated from the building, but no traces of powder were found. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Emergency crews carry a suspicious envelope from the Syracuse Junior High LDS Seminary building Tuesday. Fifty-seven students were evacuated from the building, but no traces of powder were found. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
SYRACUSE — A padded manila envelope addressed to the LDS Church triggered evacuations and a massive hazardous materials response at an LDS seminary building here.
Clad in green hazmat suits, firefighters walked into the seminary building outside Syracuse Junior High Tuesday afternoon after an instructor called police saying the envelope looked "suspicious." Lab tests conducted on the envelope mailed to the building from out of state found nothing.
"There were no powders," said U.S. Postal Inspector Robert Maes. "So really all we're looking at is an envelope that was suspicious."
Syracuse police said the only thing inside was a letter that talked about about returning some videos. The letter's label was printed on a computer, but appeared to have been cut out by scissors and taped onto the outside. The return address was a Syracuse post office box that didn't exist.
Emergency crews block off the Syracuse LDS Seminary building Tuesday after a suspicious envelope forced an evacuation of the building. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Emergency crews block off the Syracuse LDS Seminary building Tuesday after a suspicious envelope forced an evacuation of the building. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
"There were no threats," Syracuse Police Lt. Tracy Jensen said.
The discovery of the envelope at 9 a.m. Tuesday prompted officials to evacuate the 57 students inside the seminary building of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams said a lot of phone calls and rumors were flying around the school, prompting a couple of parents to come and remove their children for the day.
Anna Robbins, who works at a nearby business, watched the drama unfold from a parking lot next to the seminary.
"I think this is just a bit overboard. It's just overkill. Is it because it is a seminary building and the LDS Church is taking everything so seriously now?" she said.
Police and firefighters set up a decontamination tent, but both Syracuse Junior High and Syracuse Elementary were not evacuated. Kids from the elementary school stopped to watch some of the excitement during recess.
Emergency crews carry a suspicious envelope from the Syracuse LDS Seminary building into a decomtamination tent Tuesday. Students were evacuated from the building. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Emergency crews carry a suspicious envelope from the Syracuse LDS Seminary building into a decomtamination tent Tuesday. Students were evacuated from the building. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
Police said they responded in part because of a series of incidents involving envelopes containing suspicious white powder mailed to LDS temples in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, as well as a Catholic-affiliated printing press belonging to the Knights of Columbus in Connecticut. Those incidents remain under investigation by the FBI.

Contributing: Ethan Thomas; E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company