Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Police: OU campus safe, packages not a threat

By The Herald Staff | 4/4/2013

Suspicious packages found Thursday morning at Ottawa University, 1001 S. Cedar St., did not contain explosives or contraband, a Topeka-based bomb squad determined at the scene.

“The OU campus is safe,” Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, said about 9:45 a.m. “The bomb squad determined the packages were not a threat — they did not contain explosive materials or contraband.”

Butler said police and trained dogs were conducting a sweep through the buildings on campus as a precaution. The sweep was completed at 10:05 a.m. and police gave the “all clear” signal. Some first responders began clearing the scene.

A custodian noticed the package about 5:20 a.m. Thursday at Tauy Jones Hall on the OU campus, Butler said. The package was out of place and had not been there previously. The custodian backed away from the package and notified authorities, he said. Other custodial staff apparently had reported seeing similar boxes Wednesday near OU’s Mowbray Student Union.

Law enforcement officials set up a perimeter around the campus early this morning, where students and faculty had been evacuated.

About 150 students were evacuated shortly after 7 a.m. Thursday from Bennett Hall, because the student residence hall was within 300 feet of where the suspicious package was found, Paula Paine, OU spokesperson, said about 9:30 a.m.

All afternoon classes at OU today were to be held as scheduled, according to the university's website.

Paine thanked Ottawa police for their quick response, and she stressed that the safety of students and staff was a No. 1 priority at the university.

An unconfirmed report indicated the package might have been part of an on-campus birthday activity Wednesday.

No one had claimed responsibility for the package or packages, the police chief said.

The package — described as a “treasure chest box” (an oversized box with a shaped lid) — appeared to be sealed with duct tape, Butler said.

Jenna Lunger, a junior at OU and a member of The Campus student newspaper staff, said later Monday morning that similar cardboard boxes were used Wednesday for a scavenger hunt to celebrate a fellow student’s birthday. Lunger also is the daughter of Undersheriff Steve Lunger.

Butler said the incident was still under investigation and he could not confirm if the packages had been part of a scavenger hunt or if there had been any malicious intent on anyone’s part.

“I’ve heard several possible explanations, and we are still investigating [those leads],” Butler said.

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