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Suspect in downtown St. Petersburg evacuation is light, flaky and buttery

ST. PETERSBURG — The suspicious brown bag was found in a downtown building late Tuesday morning. Guards weren't comfortable opening the bag, but ran a metal detector over the package.

The device went off.

Dozens of people were evacuated. A street corner was shut down. The bomb squad was called.

More than two hours later, police discovered what the bag contained: a croissant.

After evacuating everyone around lunch time, police let people back into the building about 2:45 p.m. and reopened nearby downtown streets.

The suspicious package was reported about 11:30 a.m. at 501 First Ave. N, which contains courtrooms and other government offices, including veterans services, the tax collector and the supervisor of elections.

Authorities evacuated all 10 floors and called the Tampa Bay Regional Bomb Squad to the scene.

The package was found on the third floor by the Florida Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims, in the building's southeast corner.

The package was a brown paper bag propped against a door on the third floor. The door is about 5 feet from one of the elevators, police said. Police said they didn't think the bag went through normal security protocols when it was brought into the building.

Judge Donna S. Remsnyder, who was appointed a state compensation judge in 1993, said she found the package and reported it to a security guard. But they didn't look inside the bag.

"He wasn't comfortable doing anything with it," the judge said.

All along, she thought, it might be someone's sandwich.

But when guards ran a metal detector over the bag, she said, the detector went off. It was unknown if there was anything else found inside the bag, like aluminum foil, that could have set off the device.

Further heightening suspicion was that building employees told police they did not recognize the package and that packages do not belong in the area where it was found.

More than 70 people were then evacuated. About 30 people waited out the delay in the nearby Florida Craftsman Gallery, said volunteer Jeri Gammaye.

Later, authorities temporarily closed the nearby St. Petersburg Judicial Building, 545 First Ave. N, to all visitors.

Suspect in downtown St. Petersburg evacuation is light, flaky and buttery 03/02/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 12:06am]

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