Update: JC police says suspicious packages were "gifts," no criminal intent meant

Becky Campbell • Mar 12, 2013 at 8:52 AM

It turns out that seven suspicious packages left at businesses throughout the Tri-Cities, including four in Johnson City, were simply harmless gifts a local man wanted to leave anonymously.

“He had made some stuff and dropped (the packages) off,” said Johnson City Police Lt. Steve Sherfey. “He went to businesses, places he was familiar with. He wasn’t aware he would be frightening people.”

Sherfey declined to identify the man involved as well as the contents of the packages.

The man went to talk to investigators after hearing about the police involvement on local media news. Sherfey said there will be no charges.

“He didn’t think it out. There was absolutely no criminal intent whatsoever. He wanted to do it anonymously,” Sherfey said.

It all started around 6:20 a.m. when a Johnson City Transit employee found what police called a “suspicious package” at the bus terminal. Police also received information about packages at Carroll Reese Post Office on North State of Franklin, OmniSource on West Market Street and the Johnson City Public Library.

Other packages were found at a forestry service office and Wiseman’s in Unicoi County and the Bristol Post Office in Sullivan County.

As the packages in Johnson City were found, police evacuated the immediate areas and secured the scene until the JC Ordnance Team could evaluate the packages and remove them.

At Omni Source, an officer blocked the entrance to Perma R Road and turned away numerous vehicles and large trucks attempting to take in scrap metal. After the bomb squad cleared that scene, officers went to the library to retrieve that package.

Bob Swanay, library director, said he learned about the package left at a side door a little after 7 a.m. after police alerted a staff member.

“We were told there was a suspicious package at one of our side doors,” he said. He arrived to direct employees arriving for work and any library patrons they could not be there.

“My understanding is some of the packages came with a list of where there were other packages,” he said.

Sirois would not confirm that information, nor would he reveal the package contents.

“I can’t confirm that,” he said. “There were no threats or threats associated with the packages themselves, but they were suspicious. We sent out our EOD and they’ve been going to various locations throughout the city,” Sirois said.

Sherfey said even with the resources needed to check out all the packages in Johnson City, the man responsible will not be charged.


Below is a brief posted when it was discovered the packages were actually gifts:

Suspicious packages found across Johnson City Monday morning that prompted emergency responses from the city bomb squad have been determined to be "gifts," according to a news release from the police department.

Below is the news release:

"The Johnson City Police Department has identified the individual responsible for delivering packages to numerous businesses throughout Johnson City as well as the Tri-Cities area," the release read. "After speaking with this individual, it has been determined that there was neither criminal intent nor threat to harm by this person. The packages were meant as gifts. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Area Explosive Ordnance Units also assisted."

Keep checking JohnsonCityPress.com and Tuesday's print edition for more information on this latest development.


Below is an earlier story on the suspicious packages:

Police have given the Johnson City Public Library the OK to open at noon after clearing the scene of a "suspicious" package found near a side entrance.

Police locked down the library and several other sites this morning after reports of suspicious packages throughout the city.

Federal authorities were involved.

The Johnson City Police Department's bomb squad arrived at the library about 11:15 a.m. and began inspecting a package found at a side entrance. The library had been locked down all morning without opening.

The library incident was related to other incidents at several sites in the region, including Unicoi, Greeneville, Bristol and other locations in Johnson City. Police were at the Johnson City Transit System's bus station and some area post offices. Police had been at the Johnson City Post Office on State of Franklin Road and closed Med-Tech Parkway for a time but left the scene later in the morning.

Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois declined to say what was found in the packages, but he did say the contents did not constitute a threat.

Sirois said the first package was found about 6:20 a.m. at the bus station by a transit employee, and from that point, police learned about the other locations. The library staff learned of the situation from police. He declined to list all the locations that were involved.

The JCPD's bomb squad was at OmniSource, a scrap metal business off West Market Street, for more than an hour. Police had a robot rover on the scene, and a bomb squad member had put on a protective suit. He later removed it for a brief period but soon suited back up. A package reportedly was found at the business.

Police left OmniSource about 11 a.m. without explanation and moved to the library, which remained locked down.

The Johnson City Police Department issued a news release saying police had received calls regarding suspicious packages at various locations throughout the city.

Police said there was no known threat or threat made in association with the packages, but urged the public to call 911 if a suspicious package was noticed at a location within the city.

Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com for more information.

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