HANOVER, Md. (WJZ) –It was a tense afternoon across the region after two packages—one addressed to Gov. Martin O’Malley—ignited inside two state buildings.They showed up just 20 miles apart–one in Hanover, the other in Annapolis, just a few feet from the State House.
Kelly McPherson has more information about the note found in one of those packages.
The two packages were addressed to Governor O’Malley and the state transportation secretary. Now there’s an investigation into who may have sent these packages.
In Annapolis around 12:30 p.m. Thursday, a package addressed to Governor O’Malley ignited after an employee opened it.
“There was an initial flash of fire and smoke and a smell that emanated from that reaction,” said Greg Shipley, Maryland State Police spokesperson.
Fifteen minutes later and 20 miles away at the Maryland Department of Transportation, a similar package addressed to the Transportation Secretary was opened by an employee on the fourth floor, producing the same reaction.
“Only thing I heard was when the emergency alarm went off, and that was it,” said Mary Queen, MDOT employee.
“People started running, alarms were pulled. The building was very quickly cleared with a lot of people running out not grabbing purses and cell phones,” said Sharon Lewis, MDOT employee.
The packages– about the size of a small book– produced a smell like lighting a match. They were ignited with a zipper feature inside. They singed the employees’ fingers, but no one was seriously injured.
In Hanover, 250 people evacuated the building and waiting in airport transportation vehicles.
“It was kind of peaceful still because everybody knows the procedures here and everyone didn’t know exactly what was going on,” said a state employee.
Investigators are linking the two deliveries. Mailrooms across the state are still on guard though no other incendiary devices were found.
“This is not to be compared with a significant explosion that you think of when you say that word. I want to stress that,” Shipley said. “There was no property damage, and there was obviously no serious physical harm inflected on these employees.”
The governor’s office says that those two employees who handled the packages are doing OK.
Miike Hellgren takes a closer look at the investigation, including the possible motive.
This was in all likelihood an angry person who had a grudge against Maryland. The governor confirmed that it was someone who was upset about road signs and wanted to get the governor’s attention as well as that of top transportation officials.
Sources say the person who sent two incendiary packages was angry over electronic road signs, asking people to report suspicious activity.
A note inside one of the packages read: “Report suspicious activity . . . total bull**** . . . you have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Signed, X.”
“In my opinion, this is a lone-wolf situation” said Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger. “Lone wolf meaning an individual with whatever reason has a problem with the state of Maryland.”
Inside was a match and battery rigged to light up when the package was opened.
“There was no fire; there was no explosion; there was no white powder,” said State Fire Marshal William Barnard.
Police do not believe the packages or the written message is linked to any terror group. But they do believe they are linked to each other. The same person sent packages to the governor and MDOT headquarters.
Because the packages didn’t destroy themselves, there’s still plenty of physical evidence.
“Terrorism really is not about winning the war, it’s about winning the battle, disruption,” Ruppersberger said. “So there was some disruption here. But we have to make sure that this was not a conspiracy and that hopefully it was a lone wolf, and we will be able to find this person and bring him to justice.”
These packages are currently at the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., where they are being analyzed.
Kai Jackson explains how Thursday’s incident set off a heightened state of alert across the region, including Baltimore City.
Maryland state offices were already on high alert when a third suspicious package was found at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at 201 West Preston Street in Baltimore—and then a fourth package at the Mitchell Courthouse on Calvert Street.
“The bomb squad is going to investigate the packages to determine what it really is,” said Anthony Guglielmi, Baltimore City Police spokesperson.
After two incendiary devices ignited in those two state buildings in Anne Arundel County, authorities in Baltimore decided to evacuate state employees on West Preston Street—a move that snarled rush-hour traffic in the area.
Authorities later determined that neither the third or fourth package was a threat.
“We tested the device and it turned out to be a delivery of laptop batteries which happens in offices across America multiple times a day,” Guglielmi said.
The package found at Mitchell Courthouse turned out to be a box of toner cartridges.