Suspicious package prompts McCarthy Hall evacuation

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Members of the Anaheim Fire Department hazardous material team prepare to investigate a suspicious package found on the second floor of McCarthy Hall.
(Yunuen Bonaparte / Daily Titan)

Cal State Fullerton students and faculty evacuated McCarthy Hall on Tuesday due to a suspicious package.

The package in question was a manila envelope filled with a “suspicious substance,” accompanied by a letter, on the second floor of McCarthy Hall, according to University Police Capt. Scot Willey.

The contents of the letter were not inherently threatening, Willey said, but they were “suspicious and kind of rambling.” The responding officer “thought it was suspicious enough that we had to bring in other resources,” Willey said.

University Police were notified about the package and letter by the professor to whom the envelope was addressed, prompting the evacuation of McCarthy Hall.

While he could not disclose his name, Willey said that the professor in question teaches geology and has received threats in the past due to some of his published writings, which include topics such as global warming.

Willey could not give details about the substance found in the package, but he said that it “wasn’t any type of bomb material or anything like that.” The material, Willey said, was not liquid, but it was “squishy” and wrapped in plastic.

The Fullerton Fire Department, Anaheim Fire Department hazardous material team and Orange County Sheriff bomb squad were among the agencies that responded to the incident.

— Daily Titan (@thedailytitan) May 10, 2016

The bomb squad entered the building and cleared the area before the hazmat team entered and performed an on-site test, ascertaining that the substance was “nothing biological,” Willey said.

Because there “wasn’t anything threatening in the letter,” Willey said, University Police might not follow up on determining what the substance was. “It really depends on the time we want to put into it, and if anything comes up in our investigation, that will really kind of direct everything,” Willey said.

Ryan Fierro, a biology major, was on the sixth floor of McCarthy Hall when the order to evacuate was given.

Still, he said it took five to 10 minutes to evacuate and that there was no sense of urgency when the order came. Fierro said, “Nobody took it seriously till we got to the bottom,” where biology department chair Sean Walker, Ph.D., was walking around and shouting for people to clear the area.

As officers began taking down the police perimeter and allowing students to return to class, another alarm went off in the Humanities building, prompting a second evacuation. That alarm, though, did not present a serious threat.

“Somebody just played a prank and pulled the panel; they wanted to evacuate that building, hopefully cancel classes, too,” said University Police Cpl. Hoang LeQuang.

Classes resumed shortly after 4 p.m.

Gabe Espiritu and Micah Augimeri-Lee contributed to this story.

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