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Suspicious envelope being investigated at Pinellas courthouse

Gary Glenn, left, and Mark Monaghan of the Largo Fire Department at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Gary Glenn, left, and Mark Monaghan of the Largo Fire Department at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center.

LARGO — Authorities are investigating a suspicious envelope with a white powder that was received Thursday afternoon at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center.

"One employee who opened the envelope did have some exposure to the powder but is not in any distress," said Largo Fire Rescue Chief Michael Wallace.

The woman, who was not identified, was isolated and went through a decontamination process as a precaution, Wallace said.

The woman is a judge's assistant who received the envelope through the mail, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

She was opening up the envelope, addressed to the judge, when the powder poured out.

The Sheriff's Office declined to identify the judge, citing an ongoing investigation.

The envelope was collected and triple-sealed. It will be sent to a lab for further analysis, Wallace said.

Several cases of envelopes with white powder were investigated in the Tampa Bay area during the anthrax scare of 2001, which started when anthrax-laced letters were sent to media and government offices in Florida, New York and Washington, killing five people. Locally, none of the investigations yielded anthrax, a deadly bacteria that is known to occur naturally but can also be used as a biological weapon.

"This is something we dealt with a lot post-9/11 so we deal with it seriously even if the risk is pretty benign," Wallace said.

The area where the envelope was opened has been evacuated but the building has not been, because authorities determined the powder was contained to that one area, Wallace said.

The call came in at about 2:30 p.m. to the criminal court complex at 14250 49th St. N in Largo.

Suspicious envelope being investigated at Pinellas courthouse 12/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 16, 2010 11:46pm]
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