Envelope containing unknown powder forces evacuation

Police officers, sheriff's deputies and other officials gather outside the Walla Walla County Public Safety Building Friday. The building was evacuated and its front entrance cordoned off after an envelope containing an unknown powder was delivered to Sheriff John Turner.

Police officers, sheriff's deputies and other officials gather outside the Walla Walla County Public Safety Building Friday. The building was evacuated and its front entrance cordoned off after an envelope containing an unknown powder was delivered to Sheriff John Turner. Photo by Andy Porter.

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WALLA WALLA — An envelope containing an unknown powder forced the evacuation of the Walla Walla County Public Safety Building Friday.

Undersheriff Edward Freyer said the envelope, which was addressed to county Sheriff John Turner, was delivered to the Sheriff’s Office about noon. The woman handed it to the receptionist at the front of the office and it was then relayed to Turner’s office.

Turner was out of the building at that time and when he returned to his office about 12:30 p.m. he opened the envelope and discovered it contained several capsules with a white powder in them, some of which had spilled out, Freyer said.

Because of the possibility the envelope contained some type of biological agent or toxic substance, the building was evacuated. Turner and three staff members were also taken to a local hospital to be examined, Freyer said.

Freyer said earlier Friday the sheriff’s office had received an email which investigators determined were connected to the incident. Police were able to locate the woman who delivered the envelope and she has admitted to making a delivery of “medications” to the office, Freyer said. The investigation was continuing as of Friday afternoon.

Freyer said it was hoped the investigation would resolve what the substance in the envelope is and, if it was harmless, allow the building to be reopened. If that could not be done, reopening the building would have to wait until further tests could be done on the substance.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, the two-story building, which is located at the corner Alder and Fifth Avenue, remained closed with the entrance cordoned off with yellow barrier tape. The Walla Walla Fire Department, the Washington State Patrol and a hazardous materials unit were on the scene to help with decontamination.

About 8-10 people were in the county Prosecuting Attorney’s office located on the top floor and another 8-10 in the sheriff’s office when the evacuation was ordered, Freyer said.

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