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‘Suspicious’ package closes post office

POULSBO — The threat of terrorism is still knocking on the United States’ door almost three years after 9/11.

And despite a false alarm, an incident in Little Norway Wednesday had regional emergency management crews doing what they do best — making sure the portal to public safety stays on its hinges.

After a witness saw a man — who had just donned what appeared to be a “gas mask” — leave Bank of America and place a recently notarized, sealed package in a drop box across the street at the Poulsbo Post Office, she quickly contacted the Postal Inspector.

Poulsbo Police Sgt. Bill Playter said the Postal Inspector then contacted the police.

The call was placed shortly before 1 p.m. and quickly rang in a response from the Poulsbo Fire Department, the Poulsbo Police, North Kitsap Fire & Rescue, the Washington State Patrol and fire officials and a hazardous material unit from Subase Bangor.

Bank of America’s parking lot became the official “command post” as WSP troopers took charge of the situation shortly after 2 p.m. A one-block radius around Jensen Way and Iverson Street had already been cordoned off by local law enforcement. The closure of the streets and some nearby businesses, had curious motorists and pedestrians seeking answers. Their curiosity evoked the same response from officials, “We have a suspicious package. Please move along.”

While the package turned out to be harmless and it was determined the Bainbridge Island man was wearing the mask for respiratory reasons, WSP Glen Tyrrell said the local response spoke volumes about how everyday citizens are staying on guard against possible terrorist threats.

“This tells us that people are being vigilante,” Tyrrell said, explaining that even false alarms are better than no alarms at all. “People shouldn’t feel silly about calling. We appreciate their vigilance.”

Tyrrell’s comments came shortly after 3 p.m. A “sweep” by Bangor’s special hazardous materials unit a half hour earlier had determined that the package, which had been placed in the post office’s westernmost box on Jensen, was completely untainted.

By 3:10 p.m. it was business as usual on the popular roadway, save TV crews from channels 13 and 7 and a few curious bystanders.

Despite the commotion, the employee, who asked not to be named, explained that the man’s mask coupled with the sealed envelope was what sparked her concern.

“He took this gas mask off when he came in the bank. Then he had a document notarized,” she explained after the incident. “Then he put it back on and went across the street and mailed the letter. I thought it was suspicious.”

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