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Officials: suspicious package situation handled no differently

BY ROBERT CROZIER | JUNE 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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Local officials say a situation involving a suspicious package in downtown Iowa City on Sunday evening was handled no differently.

According to protocol measures obtained from the Iowa City police website, officers responding to what could be an explosive device must first establish and secure a suitable parameter.

If they locate a “real or suspicious device,” rules indicate that they are to neither touch or transmit any signals near it.

Officers establish area evacuations measuring no less than 300 feet, and then call the FBI-trained Johnson County Metro Bomb Squad.

The bomb squad is a collaboration amopng the Iowa City police, the Coralville police, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, and the University of Iowa police.

On Sunday, these protocol were enacted when Iowa City police officers closed down sections of Washington and Dubuque Streets just as the 30th-annual Iowa Arts Festival was concluding.

According to eyewitness reports and a Monday press release by the Iowa City police, the bomb squad used a robot to investigate the item and a water cannon to neutralize it.

Local police, who are currently investigating the case in conjunction with the FBI, determined that the item did not contain any explosive or incendiary agents, and the public was never in any danger.
Sunday’s incident did not mark the first time the bomb squad has responded this year.  

According to a press release, UI Hospitals and Clinics officials located a suspicious item at around 9:45 a.m. on April 22. The package, which later turned out to contain a box of tea, ginger, and a greeting card, was X-rayed by bomb-squad officials to assess its threat.

For artist Marty Hulsebos, Sunday’s incident caused a three and a half hour delay in the tearing down of his art pavilion, in front of Ragstock, 207 E. Washington St.

Joe Glick and Kayla Symonette, employees at Coldstone Creamery, 39 S. Dubuque St., stood outside the police line one block north of the suspicious item and waited to be allowed back in.

Coldstone’s assistant manager, who chose to remain anonymous, said it was hard to say exactly how much money the business lost during the situation.

Iowa City police Sgt. Vicki Lalla said the water cannon is a specialized tool that police use on suspicious objects they cannot easily identify. Although she said she was unaware of when Johnson County introduced its bomb squad, the force has been serving the area for several years.

Coralville Police Chief Barry Bedford said the four agencies each pay 25 percent of the total operating costs relating to the squad. He said the rotation of supervision rotates every few years.

Iowa City police Sgt. Brian Krei is the current supervisor of the bomb squad.

Initial training for bomb-squad technicians is handled by the FBI in Anniston, Ala.

Bedford said operating costs are also aided by federal and state agencies. He said U.S. Homeland Security and the FBI have given equipment to the squad in the past.

After the state fire marshall received a new bomb truck a few months ago, Johnson County received a handed-down vehicle.

“Prior to that time, we had an old ambulance and a trailer that we pulled,” Bedford said.


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