Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Birdhouse 'Bomb' Shows Tension of Times

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Birdhouse 'Bomb' Shows Tension of Times

Article excerpt

SARASOTA -- In a time fraught with domestic terrorism concerns, a simple wooden birdhouse can shut down a large swath of a city.

Police, sheriff's deputies, firefighters and other emergency personnel closed a major section of U.S. 41 on Wednesday morning after security guards at Sarasota Memorial Hospital discovered a "suspicious device."

The guards found the item around 8 a.m. on the hospital sidewalk near Hillview Street. They notified their superiors who, in turn, contacted 911.

Portions of the hospital closest to the device were evacuated, with patients sent to other, safer portions of the hospital further from the site of the item. Five

ambulances were positioned in front of the hospital's front entrance, and fire trucks were staged throughout the scene.

Four blocks of U.S. 41 -- the city's busiest thoroughfare -- were closed. Numerous businesses in the area were evacuated and shuttered. Pedestrians were cleared -- blocked from the scene by police crime scene tape.

For the next few hours, bomb technicians from Sarasota Police nd the Sarasota County Sheriff's office sent two robots to examine the "device" with X-rays and cameras.

"We're waiting to evacuate that quadrant of the hospital, and make sure everyone is out of that corner," Sarasota Police spokeswoman Genevieve Judge said about an hour into the incident. "At no point did any officer or emergency personnel approach the package."

Around 10:30 a.m., police issued the all clear.

"Officers used robots to take a look at it and determined it's not a threat," Judge said.

As to the response, Judge said: "We treated this as the worst- case scenario. We wanted to make sure what it was, and that there were no explosives inside."

Officials, she said, would rather be "safe than sorry."

The device, according to photos taken at the scene, appeared to be a wooden birdhouse, but there was more to it. …

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