Suspicious letters arrive at 24 Oregon sheriffs offices, investigators say – OregonLive.com
This post has been updated to reflect an increase in the number of sheriffs offices that have reported receiving a suspicious letter.
The number of Oregon sheriffs offices to receive suspicious letters has increased to 24, investigators say, with some delivered Monday and more arriving Tuesday.
The sheriff of Grant County says he had a reaction to one of the pieces of mail, though the FBI reports that its inquiry has found no powder or toxic substances on any of it.
Eric Schmidt, a spokesman for the Association of Oregon Counties, said law enforcement officials told him there are “probably” other offices that have received letters but have yet to confirm that.
“We are urging our folks to be extremely careful,” Schmidt said. “If they see anything, call 911 and leave the letter alone.”
Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer said one of the letters caused him to suffer a physical reaction. Palmer said he didn’t see any powder or white substance when he opened the letter, but he experienced a metallic taste in his mouth and felt a tingling in his arms.
“I thought, ‘Oh, boy,’ and went to the hospital intending to get my blood tested but they went full haz-mat mode on me,” Palmer told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “They stripped me down and washed me down.”
The FBI and Oregon State Police are conducting a statewide investigation into the letters. Federal, state and local officials are asking officials in all Oregon’s 36 counties to be on alert for suspicious letters or packages.
“To date, field testing by hazardous materials crews has shown no toxic substance on any letter or in any envelope,” FBI spokeswoman Beth Ann Steele said Tuesday. “In addition, at this time there is no evidence of a visible powder to be found in any of the envelopes/letters.”
On Tuesday, Schmidt said photographs of two letters — one received by the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office and one received by the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office — were distributed among county offices statewide.
Both of those letters were mailed from Portland on Saturday with a return address of “Shockwave Centrail (sic) 97310,” a Salem zip code.
On both letters the word “Women” was written above the sheriff’s office name.
Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said his office received a similar letter Monday.
“Everything was turned over to the FBI,” Dickerson said. “Mail safety and security is always on our minds — events like these underscore the importance of those concepts.”
Sgt. Bob Ray, public information officer with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, said his office received a letter Monday. He said the letter was opened by an employee wearing gloves, standard practice at the sheriff’s office.
Ray explained the letter was addressed to the sheriff’s office and written in a watercolor-like medium. It had a letter inside, but Ray would not disclose the contents of the letter, pending the ongoing investigation.
“I will tell you that the message in the letter was difficult to understand,” Ray said. “I can’t really get into too many more details besides that.”
Lt. Steve Alexander, a spokesman for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, said his office took additional precautions Monday with all mail, but returned to standard protocols Tuesday. “We are still very cautious about opening the mail,” he said.
Alexander said members of the sheriff’s hazardous material team were dispatched to assist the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office, which received a letter with an unknown substance Monday.
“They were there to contain and assess the substance,” Alexander said.
— Stuart Tomlinson