Key West post office evacuated over suspected hoax

Police and federal agents locked down the Key West post office on Friday when a worker opened a package containing a threatening letter and a suspicious white powder.

Workers and others inside were evacuated and underwent decontamination as a precaution, but federal investigators believe the substance was likely harmless. None of the people inside the post office on Whitehead Street reported feeling any ill effects, said Delvin Alvarez, an inspector for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Miramar.

“At this point, we’re leaning toward a hoax,’’ Alvarez said early Friday evening, though he cautioned that the service, which was working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was awaiting final tests on the material.

Officers cordoned off the block around the downtown post office after postal workers called about the package at 12:47 p.m. and the city’s hazardous materials teams directed an evacuation and decontamination, Key West police reported. The post office remained closed throughout the day, but Alvarez said unless tests come back with unexpected results, it should reopen on Saturday.

Alvarez said a postal worker opened the envelope, which was addressed to the U.S. Postal Service, and found a threatening letter and the powder. Alvarez said he could not discuss the contents in detail but said a similar letter had been sent earlier this year to the mayor of Los Angeles. The powder in that letter turned out to be baking soda.

The Postal Inspection Service and FBI would continue to investigate, he said.

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