Not an explosive, hazardous device
A suspicious package found at the Rolla Post Office Thursday afternoon was meant to steal mail and is not an explosive device, according to the Rolla Police Department.
And a person of interest being questioned by authorities Thursday is now believed not to be involved in the incident, said Rick Williams, interim police chief.
Rolla police officers and the City of Rolla Fire and Rescue firefighters were called to the post office at 501 W. Eighth St. around 3 p.m. Thursday after a postal employee located a suspiciously wrapped package that was believed to possibly be an explosive device in the mail.
According to City of Rolla Fire and Rescue Chief Robert Williams, the package was placed in one of the outside mailbox receptacles on Park Street. The package was then brought inside and discovered during sorting, the fire chief said. The package was then placed on the post office’s rear loading dock.
The post office and businesses in the immediate area were evacuated, and a perimeter was established around the building.
The Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit from Fort Leonard Wood along with the Bomb Disposal Unit from the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) responded to the post office to investigate the package.
At approximately 10:30 p.m., the bomb disposal team determined the suspicious package was not an explosive device or contained hazardous materials.
However, law enforcement officials believe it may have been designed to illegally take mail from the mailbox.
“The package was determined to be an improvised device which is commonly used in stealing mail from mailboxes,” stated a news release from the RPD.
“The device looked like a cellphone with some coiled metal in there and a piece of cardboard,” said Rick Williams. It was wrapped in black electrical tape with the sticky side exposed and had a rope attached to it.
Rick Williams said he believes the intent was to drop the device into the mailbox so that letters, possibly containing checks, would stick to the device before it was pulled out of the receptacle. Rick Williams said the suspect may have dropped it and couldn’t retrieve it.
Before the bomb squad could X-ray the package, photos were taken of the item and circulated to area law enforcement.
Rolla police officers remembered seeing a device on a person of interest that appeared similar to the device in question. This person of interest was located and questioned in this matter but later released pending further investigation.
Rick Williams said it was difficult to determine the size of the objected based on the photo taken. It was originally thought the device was the size of a satchel, and a person who was seen having a similar-sized satchel was located. During questioning, the person of interest admitted to having a satchel but not on his person.
However, after comparing the size of the device to nearby envelopes, it was determined the device was much smaller than a satchel, and the person of interest was released.
“We don’t think that person is of interest anymore,” Rick Williams said.
The RPD’s criminal investigations unit, the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office, the MSHP and the FBI are conducting a joint investigation.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact the RPD division of criminal investigations unit at 573-308-1213, or the police’s confidential tip line at 573-364-0111.
Agencies assisting in this investigation were the patrol’s division of drug and crime control, the Missouri University of Science and Technology Police Department and the City of Rolla Fire and Rescue.