'Suspicious' packages may have been part of hoax

- Pinellas deputies on Wednesday dealt with a pair of apparent hoaxes outside the Justice Center on 49th Street N. 

The first involved three bottles wrapped in duct tape and left in the plaza outside the main entrance. 

"Somebody did something to...give the appearance that it is some type of a bomb or explosive device," Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told reporters, adding "...there was no detonating chord, there were no wires, there was no way to set it off." 

As a precaution, the regional bomb squad brought its robot to the scene, and the three packages were taken a short distance away and destroyed.

"Preliminarily right now...we don't see any explosive material in what they have detonated," Gualtieri said, "It's probably going to take lab analysis to determine further what may be in those containers."

An area around that activity was blocked off and the courthouse remained open.  As new reports flowed from the scene, a woman called 911, gave a "Middle Eastern" name, and said her brother and another man "...were on their way here to the courthouse and that they had guns and that they were going to shoot the place up" the sheriff said. 

Several deputies armed themselves with long rifles and a couple of unoccupied white vans were checked.  However, the sheriff also speculated that was a second hoax, possibly inspired by coverage of the first presumed hoax. 

"Sometimes people do this because they want to disrupt activity or they want to disrupt the flow and there was no reason to disrupt the flow," Gualtieri said in response to a question about not closing the courthouse.

The sheriff also expressed confidence in security cameras that may have recorded the arrival of the suspicious packages.  If an arrest is made, "planting of a hoax device/bomb" is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.

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