Suspicious packages are run through biohazard detection machines as part of the process. But the machines had yet to alert on a single piece of mail after more than 8 million uses as of last March, when at least five packages containing bullets, harmless white powder and threatening letters were sent through the U.S. Postal Service to judges at the Baltimore Circuit Courthouse. No one was hurt in those incidents.
Oliver "Buck" Revell, former associate deputy director for investigations at the FBI, labeled mail terrorism "a coward's attack."
"This is a coward's way of trying to get even and get away with it without detection," he said.
During a press conference outside the Harry R. Hughes Department of Transportation Building in Hanover Thursday afternoon, the state fire marshal, William E. Barnard said eight people were checked by medics at the scene, and four of them were taken to Baltimore-Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie for further examination.
He said the evidence had been collected and would be taken to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va.
Shortly after 4:30 p.m., DOT employees were permitted to reenter the building, which was to return to normal business on Friday, officials there said. Normally, some 250 people work there, although it was not clear how many were in the building at the time of the incident.
Employees at the Jeffrey Building were led in again shortly after 2:30 pm and the yellow tape that had blocked the narrow street was taken down. The street remained impassable other than by foot during the investigation, blocked by Annapolis, state and federal vehicles. A helicopter hovered overhead.
"I'm an intern. There is possibly a time when I'll handle mail," said Maria Pecora, a 19-year-old University of Baltimore student who is an intern at the Department of Veterans Affairs. "It's a scary thing to witness and be a part of."
The Jeffrey Building in Annapolis also houses several other gubernatorial staff offices, including the Office of Homeland Security, the appointments office, the secretary of state and StateStat.
Maryland State Police Spokesman Greg Shipley said state police would send out information to government mailrooms with a picture of the packages so that employees can search through mailroom items Friday.
"We will be asking them to do a thorough search," he said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Jessica Anderson, Julie Bykowicz, Scott Calvert, Meredith Cohn, Michael Dresser, Peter Hermann, Erik Maza and Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this report.
What to do with a suspicious package
Step 1: Don't open it.
Step 2: Isolate the package.
Step 3: Evacuate the area.
If it's U.S. mail, contact the Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.
Source: U.S. Postal Inspection Service