4 buildings cleared after bomb threats

General Services office receives anonymous call

6,000 workers sent home

April 29, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Two bomb threats triggered the evacuation of 6,000 state employees in four Baltimore state office buildings yesterday, but no explosive devices were found, authorities said.

Police were investigating the anonymous threats, which were phoned in early yesterday to the Maryland Department of General Services, in a building it shares with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at 201 W. Preston St., and later to the Department of Human Resources, 311 W. Saratoga St.

As a precaution, officials emptied those buildings and state-owned complexes at 300 and 301 W. Preston.

"Department of General Services received a telephone bomb threat this morning after the workday started," said Dave Humphrey, spokesman for the department, which runs 52 state government buildings.

Without providing specifics, Humphrey said General Services had never had a threat of this magnitude. About 5,500 employees from the three Preston Street buildings were given a paid day off. Another 500 workers were let go after state officials received a second threatening call about 11: 45 a.m. at the Department of Human Resources building at 311 W. Saratoga St.

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, acting governor this week while Gov. Parris N. Glendening is out of state, said officials will consider additional security for state buildings. "This is an incredible loss in terms of work-hour days. We just can't allow this to pass without punishment," Townsend said.

Lester Schumacher, who works in the medical assistance programs office at 201 W. Preston, said, "The word spread pretty quickly," and people vacated the buildings immediately. Schumacher said his first reaction was anger and frustration over losing a half-day of work. "It was just backlash from everything happening in Littleton, Colo., it puts you back a half-day in work."

Officials said they are investigating and would not comment on a possible connection to last week's Colorado massacre, in which 15 people died.

Subway, light rail and street traffic between Howard and Eutaw streets was stopped for about 2 1/2 hours while officers from Baltimore and Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, Mass Transit Administration and the state fire marshal's office were dispatched to the Preston Street buildings. Eight police dog teams entered the Health Services building, while the other buildings were "visually searched," Humphrey said.

Because Health Services received the call, Humphrey said, "one felt it had the most suspicion."

Traffic and transportation restrictions were lifted by 2: 30 p.m.

Baltimore police officers and a police dog unit were dispatched to the Saratoga Street site.

Sun staff writers Michael Dresser and Amy Oakes contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 4/29/99

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