Suspicious letter causes evacuation of Hillsborough Courthouse Annex

- Reports of a suspicious letter containing powder in the mail room at the Hillsborough County Courthouse forced first responders to evacuate the first-floor annex in downtown Tampa Wednesday afternoon.

A worker in the mail room first noticed the trouble around 3:40 p.m. and called 911. In minutes, Tampa Fire Rescue, Tampa Police and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office had part of Jefferson Street blocked off.

The first floor was evacuated. Meanwhile, a small group of the employees in the mail room quarantined themselves, waiting for the hazmat team.

"We showed up to take a look at what this was and make sure it didn't spread to any other places and that there was no danger to anyone else in the building," said Jason Penny, Spokesperson for Tampa Fire Rescue.

The Hazmat Team tested the powder. The verdict: non-toxic.

No one was hurt. But, as a precaution, the group was brought outside to a decontamination tent to be cleaned up.

Coincidentally, Tampa Fire Rescue just conducted hazmat training Tuesday, practicing with the same equipment used at the courthouse.

"This is not unusual," said Larry McKinnon, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer. "We err on the side of caution."

Further testing will determine what exactly was inside the envelope. Investigators haven't said who it was addressed to.

"It was an employee inside the courthouse," McKinnon said. "But, as far as releasing any further details as to who that was, it's still unsubstantiated."

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has initiated a criminal investigation. They want to find out who sent that letter and why.

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