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FBI at Valley

Deputies quarantine after coming in contact with suspicious substance.

By Griffin O’Rourke, Photo Editor

The FBI and LASD hazmat showed up on campus last month after the Valley College Sheriff's Department was handed a suspicious package.

After receiving a suspicious envelope in her mailbox, a local woman called the LAPD and was directed to report the crime to the nearest law enforcement office — Valley’s sheriff station. The concerned woman handed the envelope, which contained a plastic bag filled with a white powder, to a security officer on campus and then left, leaving law enforcement concerned that it was a harmful substance.

“She handed the security officer an envelope containing the substance and then drove away after opening it,” Deputy Mars said. “We quarantined ourselves and called LASD Hazmat in case it was a harmful substance.”

Hazmat and the FBI responded within 15 minutes. A quick analysis showed it was an inert numbing agent, likely benzocaine powder, and posed no threat to the officers. The fine, odorless powder can block nerve signals making it useful in pain medication. Hazmat took the substance for closer examination. The investigation is currently in the LAPD’s jurisdiction, but no motive or suspect has been declared so far.

The incident involving the suspicious package was reported as a “suspected terrorist act,” which was one of six major events to happen on campus in February, a higher than average crime rate for Valley.

“Four major reports per month is the average,” Deputy Anthony Coleman said. “Five or more major events in a month is abnormal.”

The five other reports consisted of two burglaries, two acts of vandalism and one weapons violation charge.

One burglary report involved the theft of an emergency evacuation chair from the third floor of the Allied Health and Sciences building. According to the Sheriff’s Department's description from security footage, the Hispanic or white male suspect was around 30 years old and likely homeless, wearing a blue cap and dirty clothes. An evacuation chair is designed to transport a person with disabled mobility down stairs in case of an emergency. The other burglary involved a break-in at the media arts storage room. While nothing was stolen, the unknown suspect was believed to have lived in the space for some time.

“None of our buildings are really targeted for burglary,” said Coleman. “It’s just opportunity based - someone leaves a door open.”

The two incidents of vandalism involved graffiti being spray painted on the walls of the parking structure next to Ethel avenue. The suspects, two Grant High School students, were arrested and charged with misdemeanors on March 13.

The one report of a weapons violation charge is connected to an incident involving two male suspects who brandished a concealed weapon and displayed gang-related gestures.

Three new vandalism incidents were reported on March 7. Windows in the Administration and Career building, the Student Services Center and the Library were broken between the times of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. The Sheriff’s department believes a pellet gun was fired at the double-paned windows, fracturing only the first layer and leaving behind a small hole.


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