EDUCATION

Postal Service intercepts suspicious letters before reaching schools

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Suspicious letters containing white powder has been sent at more than 30 D.C. schools, scaring parents and sending authorities on the hunt for a suspect. 

Police outside M.C. Terrell/McGogney Elementary School.

One school that received a letter, Bancroft Elementary in Northwest, received a suspicious letter last October. ABC7's Courtney Robinson reports that school officials recognized the letter and no one touched it.

"It doesn't make any sense why someone would want to scare the whole community," said parent Kim Frietze.

On Friday, the Postal Service intercepted and prevented suspicious letters from being delivered to McKinley High School, Maury, Barnard and Frances Stevens Elementary.

Law enforcement sources told ABC7 some of mailings were sent from Dallas, Tex. At least one envelope contained the words "AL AQEDA-FBI."

"We are in the process of having a laboratory" test, said James McJunkin of the FBI Washington field office.

Federal officials say this isn't an uncommon crime. They are examining forensic evidence from similar incidents around the country and locally.

According to the FBI, the suspicious letters were sent to D.C. elementary, middle and high schools across the city. D.C. Fire officials said another letter with a suspicious white powder has been discovered at a Department of Corrections youth facility in NE this evening in a mailroom.

Each letter was and will be analyzed for hazardous substances before being transported to the FBI's lab in Quantico for further analysis.

“This was a dastardly and incredibly disruptive act that has alarmed people unnecessarily," Mayor Vincent Gray said in a statement.

At one school the powder turned out to be starch. Nobody has been injured or sickened. The FBI is leading the investigation because of the nature of the threat and the potential link between D.C. case and others around the country.

“It’s definitely disturbing,” said David Heim, a junior at School Without Walls. “Not something that happens very often and clearly everybody is on high alert after Osama was killed.”

Law enforcement sources tell ABC7 News that all the letters appear to contain the same contents. Authorities don't know if the envelopes came from the same sender.

The suspicious substances appear to be a white powder that was delivered to schools. Some schools have been evacuated. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said all schools will be open tomorrow, on time, unless otherwise advised by MPD or the FBI.

The envelope at the School Without Walls contained white powder in a folded sheet of paper. It stated "al quaida, fbi, usa" and was from North Dallas, Tex. Sources say that description matches the letters received at schools across the city from Southeast to Northwest.

“It was just a white powder,” said Richard Trogisch, principal at School Without Walls. He ordered the school to be evacuated Thursday afternoon.
“Basically one of my secretaries and myself are the only ones who touched it. I didn't touch the powder.”

Meanwhile, in response to the incidents in Washington, Maryland's law enforcement, emergency management, health agencies and schools are taking preventative steps in case suspicious packages are sent there.

“Maryland is prepared to respond and we can reduce that fear by raising awareness and informing our citizens to be prepared for how to react should this same scenario occur in their community,” Richard Muth, the executive director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement.

The number of schools kept rising throughout the afternoon as more and more reported finding suspicious substances. This is the most updated list:

The other schools are:

 Amidon Elementary in Southwest

Anne Gooding Elementary in Northeast

Ballou High in Southeast

Banneker Day Care in Northwest

Beers Elementary in Southeast

Brookland Education Campus at Bunker Hill in Northeast

Burroughs Education Campus in Northeast

Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest

Eastern High in Northeast

Eaton Elementary in Northwest

Hamilton Center in Northeast

Hardy Middle in Northwest

Houston Elementary in Northeast

Johnson Middle in Southeast

King Elementary in Southeast

Lafayette Elementary in Northwest

Lasalle Elementary in Northeast

Marie Reed Elementary in Northwest

Martin Luther King Elementary in Southeast

Maude Aiton Elementary in Northeast

M.C. Terrell Elementary in Southeast

Peabody Elementary in Northeast

Phelps in Northeast

Plummer Elementary in Southeast

Powell Elementary in Northwest

Ronald H. Brown Middle in Northeast

Ross Elementary in Northwest

School Without Walls in Northwest

Thurgood Marshall Elementary in Northeast
Youth Department of Corrections facility in Northeast

This story will be updated.

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