[UPDATE] Anthrax Threat At DHSMV [SLIDE SHOW]

By: Julie Montanaro, Lanetra Bennett; Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Email
By: Julie Montanaro, Lanetra Bennett; Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Email
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UPDATED By Julie Montanaro
April 30, 2013

An Anthrax threat forced the evacuation of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Monday.

Today we got an exclusive interview with one of the employees quarantined in that mail room.

"They were just like you're going to die, here's some Anthrax for you, so," Joey Kennedy said with a laugh.

"Were you laughing yesterday?"

"Kind of. I was kind of like what is this? Really?" Kennedy said.

Joey Kennedy works sorting mail and researching records.

Monday he was one of six employees quarantined after a co-worker at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles opened a letter claiming to contain Anthrax.

"Did you ever consider for a moment that this might have been real? That you might be at some risk?"

"For a very slim second I was like, man, I'm going to be aggravated if they call me and there's actually something in there," Kennedy said.

The DHSMV was evacuated and shut down for more than four hours Monday. Haz mat crews decontaminated the mail room and the six employees who worked there had to strip down, shower and wait while their clothes were tested.

The letter itself was sent to a lab in Jacksnville for further testing.

"We do know from the Department of Health, they have communicated with us that the initial tests at the Department of Health lab in Jacksonville have come back negative. So we don't anticipate that there will be any effects," DHSMV Spokeswoman Leslie Palmer said.

Neither DHSMV nor the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will comment on where the letter was postmarked, who it was addressed to or what it said. FDLE says the investigation into who sent it continues.

"In this day and age we gotta be prepared for anything. People are crazy," Kennedy said.

DHSMV was back to business as usual today.

FDLE has no comment on a suspect.

The U.S. Attorneys Office will not confirm or deny whether it is investigating or whether it will ultimately prosecute the suspect in this case.

Karen Rhew-Miller says there are two federal laws that apply. One is threatening to use biological weapons. It carries up to five years in prison if no one is hurt. The other statue applies to mailing threats to injure others and that can carry up to ten years in prison, she said.


By: Julie Montanero
April 30, 2013

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles says it was notified by the Florida Department of Health last night that initial tests on an envelope claiming to contain Anthrax were negative.

DHSMV spokeswoman Leslie Palmer says they are still awaiting results of a culture. That could take another 24-48 hours.

It is business as usual today at the agency and five of the six employees who were quarantined are back at work today.

Neither DHSMV or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will comment on where the letter was postmarked, who it was addressed to or what it said.


By: Lanetra Bennett
April 29, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - An envelope claiming to have Anthrax inside was sent to a state office building in Tallahassee this morning.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles was shut down and the hazmat team was called in for decontamination.

Employee Kiyanna Bryant says, "Another business day at work, a typical Monday. Then the fire alarm went off."

The next thing Kiyanna Bryant knew, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles was blocked off with crime tape; and the the Tallahassee Fire Department, Hazardous Materials Team and the Tallahassee Police Department were all on scene.

Bryant says, "When we saw all the hazmat trucks coming in and all the fire trucks coming in, that's how we kind of knew it was something really serious, more dangerous."

Authorities say a letter was sent to the DHSMV that said it had Anthrax in the envelope.

About 1,500 employees were evacuated, except for six people who were in the records office with the letter. Authorities say they were quarantined.

LT Mike Bellamy with the Tallahassee Fire Department says, "We took the clothes that they had that would've potentially could've been contaminated; we put those clothes into bags. Each individual was able to wash themselves."

LT Bellamy says they sealed the letter in a container and sent it to a Department of Health lab in Jacksonville for testing. Authorities say they're not sure when the results will be in.

Authorities say the letter was addressed to the department, but have not confirmed if a specific name was on it.

Authorities say they do not believe the envelope did contain Anthrax because nothing was visible.

As far as the criminal aspect of the incident, the Regional Domestic Task Force is now trying to figure out who sent it.


Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- State and local authorities are examining a state agency building after a suspicious letter was discovered, forcing some 1,500 employees to evacuate.

The letter was found Monday inside the state's highway safety building -- four miles east of the Florida Capitol.

A Tallahassee Fire Department official told reporters that writing on an envelope found in the records office indicated anthrax was inside. But nothing was inside the envelope, which was addressed to the agency's executive director.

Employees were told to return later Monday.

The letter will be handed over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for further examination. Seven employees are being examined for signs of contamination.

The incident comes as Mississippi officials charged a new suspect with sending letters containing ricin to President Obama and others.


Press Release: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

TALLAHASSEE— The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) has re-opened for business after a threatening letter led officials to close the building this morning. Following standard protocol, the building was temporarily evacuated until deemed safe by the Regional Domestic Security Task Force.

After conducting field tests on the letter and the office in which it was received, members of the task force believe no credible threat was posed. However, exercising an abundance of caution, the letter will undergo confirmatory laboratory testing by the Florida Department of Health.

Julie L. Jones, Executive Director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said, “We appreciate the quick response of the first responders to the Kirkman Building, especially the Tallahassee Fire Department, Tallahassee Police Department, FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Leon County Emergency Medical Services. I am proud of our employees who displayed their professionalism throughout the process.”

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides highway safety and security through excellence in service, education and enforcement. The Department is leading the way to a safer Florida through the efficient and professional execution of its core mission: the issuance of driver licenses, vehicle tags and titles and operation of the Florida Highway Patrol.

To learn more about DHSMV and the services offered, visit www.flhsmv.gov, follow us on Twitter @FDHSMV or find us on Facebook.


Tallahassee, FL - The six FDHSMV employees in the room where the suspicious letter was opened were all in the bookkeeping department. All have been released to go home.

The office has re-opened and all employees were allowed back to work at 1pm this afternoon.

WCTV will bring you more on the story tonight on Eyewitness News.


11:54 am

Tallahassee, FL - The letter has tested negative for explosives, and radioactive chemicals.

The Joint Regional Task Force is investigating potential criminal activity.



10:24 am

Six people are now being held to be decontaminated. They are being evaluated on scene and released if they show no symptoms.

The letter has been sent to a Department of Health lab in Jacksonville. Officials believe the analysis may take several days.


Press Release: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

TALLAHASSEE—Today, a threatening letter claiming to have a biological weapon was intercepted at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in Tallahassee. Following standard protocol, local, state and federal authorities were notified, and the building was temporarily evacuated until the area is deemed safe to return.

Julie L. Jones, Executive Director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said, “Out of an abundance of caution, staff worked quickly in executing normal protocols of notifying authorities and clearing the building to ensure the safety of our employees. Our employees did a great job in identifying a potential threat – and quickly enacting security measures. The safety of our employees is our top priority, and we will continue to work with state, local and federal partners to investigate the incident, so we can quickly return to normal operations.”

The letter was intercepted in the records room of the Department, where seven employees were working. Following standard protocol, a hazmat team was deployed to assess and enact measures to ensure the safety of the employees.



9:54 am

Tallahassee, FL - Fifteen hundred employees of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles were evacuated from their Tallahassee headquarters shortly after eight this morning. First responders in Hazardous Materials gear are on the scene after a suspicious letter was received in a second floor office.

Lt. Mike Bellamy, Tallahassee Fire Department:
“In a records officer, this morning, they discovered an envelope, opened it up, a letter. Inside the letter they said there was anthrax inside, they actually could not see a substance, but the letter did state there was anthrax. We were able to shut the air conditioning, heating system off to avoid circulating any type of substance if there was something. We were able to quarantine those seven folks in that one spot."

Samples are being sent to a lab for analysis. Employees were sent home until 1pm, when they will be briefed and told whether it is safe to return to work. Communications Director Laura Palmer tells us the evacuation was flawless.

Laura Palmer, DHSMV Communications Director:
”The fire alarm went off, everybody exited and grabbed their personal belongings and exited the building orderly, which is exactly what we do drills on.”

The incident follows last weeks arrest of a Mississippi man who send Ricin to the President, A US Senator, and a Judge. The Tallahassee Fire Department says it responded to more than sixty such threats following 9-1-1, none of which turned out to be anything more than a hoax.


By: Lanetra Bennett
April 29, 2013
9:28 am

Lt. Mike Bellamy says there were seven employees that have to be decontaminated. They are the employees that were in the area where the letter was.

Bellamy says the envelope said that there was anthrax inside of the letter but there is no physical evidence that there really is any substance inside. He says the letter is being sent to FDLE for testing.

Stay with WCTV Eyewitness News for the latest.



9:18 am

Tallahassee, FL - Employees who may have come in contact with the suspicious envelope are being decontaminated at this time.

The letter said it contained anthrax.

Lt. Mike Bellamy with the Tallahassee Fire Department says no anthrax has been discovered, but the situation is still being investigated.



8:33 am

Tallahassee, FL - The Tallahassee Fire Department is investigating a report of a powdery, white substance discovered in an envelope at the Department of Motor Vehicles on Apalachee Pkwy.

Tallahassee Police arrived on scene at 8:26 am.

The building is being evacuated and hazmat is responding to the scene.


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