Bomb Scare Shuts Down City Hall Block

Thomas MacMillan Photo(Updated: 6:59 p.m.) Detectives and the police department’s hazardous devices unit were on scene at City Hall Monday night investigating a “suspicious” package left at the mayor’s office.

By 5:45 p.m. police closed off Church Street to traffic for the block including City Hall. The front entrance to City Hall was taped off.

However, people were given access to the building through a side entrance, and authorities did not evacuate the building

By 6:20 the mayor’s driver, police Officer Dennis Cole, took the package outside for the experts to examine. At 6:30 a bomb specialist in a protective suit was analyzing the package.

Mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer said the package arrived in the mayor’s office around 5 p.m., following a press conference about the city’s prison reentry initiative.

A mayoral aide said no one, including the mayor, recognized the return address on the package.

The call came in around 5:30 p.m., according to Lt. Jeff Hoffman. The Board of Alders has a meeting scheduled Monday evening; that meeting was going ahead as scheduled.

The package was deemed harmless by 6:50 p.m., and authorities reopened the street and the City Hall entrance. The package was found to contain “costume jewelry.”

Mayor Harp then described what happened:

“I came in after the press conference. Someone handed me a box. I shook it, and it made some funny noises. I didn’t know the name” on the package, she said. “So I gave it to the officer, and he went through the protocol.”

“We think someone was trying to send the mayor gifts,” said police Chief Dean Esserman.

Esserman praised the mayor and Officer Cole for their actions. “I think [the mayor] did everything right. The officer was extraordinary.” Esserman said Cole’s instinct—to take the package outside and call his supervisor—was the right one.

Esserman said the package (pictured) was taken by the police and the matter will be investigated further, to determine who was sending costume jewelry to Mayor Harp.

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posted by: cp06 on March 3, 2014  8:44pm

Don’t send the mayor anything if she doesn’t know your address?

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on March 3, 2014  9:11pm

“Bomb Scare”? The Mayor shook the box? Officer Cole walked it outside? A protocol was followed? I pray none of the people responsible for these scenes NEVER encounters a real device. Now who is in charge of this? The FD, or PD? Whoever it is, is a threat to the safety of the general public. Put the package down, leave the room, evacuate non-essential personnel from a perimeter that is appropriate for size, and weight of the suspect package (some modern day military explosives, which are powerful, are not very large, or heavy.), notify the appropriate people, deploy appropriate, and sufficient personnel, then allow the bomb techs to go in and do their thing. Dear Lord protect these public servants from harm.

posted by: robn on March 3, 2014  11:17pm

My take away…
Always mail jewelry with some sort of packing material.
To determine if there’s a bomb in your mail, give it a good shake.

posted by: gioex0323 on March 4, 2014  4:08am

As a civilian bomb tech I can tell you that the New Haven Bomb Squad handled the job by the book. When dealing with suspicious packages the bomb squad is in charge when they arrive on scene. Prior to that the police dept is in charge, due to it being a possible criminal act.

Should Ofc. Cole have walked it outside after they felt it was suspicious, no, but I will not Monday Morning Quarterback that.

As far as shaking it, the Mayor did what most people do when they get a package or box in the mail. If I read it correctly, it wasn’t until after that they felt it was suspicious.

I am not affiliated with the New Haven Bomb Squad but I have friends on that squad, since our community is extremely small, and I can tell you that their higher ups, more specifically command staff wanted to cut corners to get the job done. It amazes me that bomb techs get an enormous amount of training to do what they do, but when it’s time to do their job, EVERYONE who took a class on explosives or attended a seminar on the Boston Bombing becomes an expert in bomb disposal.

I’m happy that it turned out to be nothing and that my brothers and sisters in arms walked away from a job well done.  What will get people hurt it those who think they are in the know and want to feel more important than they are.

posted by: HewNaven on March 4, 2014  8:20am

“Someone handed me a box. I shook it, and it made some funny noises. I didn’t know the name” on the package, she said.

Harp followed standard procedure for Christmas morning.