Clothes, computer in bag prompt Durham bomb scare

Mar. 31, 2014 @ 06:43 PM

Police evacuated the N.C. Mutual Life Building downtown for about three hours on Monday afternoon after someone stashed a suitcase under the front steps.

The building next door to Durham Police Headquarters, home to about 430 workers from the life insurance company and the federal Veterans Administration, shut down about 1:30 p.m. after a security guard reported the bag to authorities.

“A man left a package under the steps and just walked away,” said Joe Lemanski, property manager for the building.

Durham police shut down West Chapel Hill Street between the Amtrak station and the northbound onramp to the Durham Freeway. The bomb unit from the Durham County Sheriff’s Office responded to investigate for any potential hazards.

Deputy John Hamlett clad himself in a 90-pound bomb technician’s suit and walked a block from the sheriff’s staging area to study the suitcase. He used a portable X-ray machine to scan for explosives. Deputies also sent in their remote-controlled roving bomb robot.

“Whatever they’ve got going on, if they don’t know what it is, it’s serious,” said Lori, a VA worker from the 8th floor who didn’t want to give her last name. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

After nearly three hours, however, investigators determined that the suitcase contained nothing but clothes and a laptop computer. No explosives were found.

No charges had been filed against the man who left the luggage, according to Kammie Michael, police spokeswoman. Police didn’t identify him.

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