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October 25, 2014

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Tests: White powder sent to Nevada Supreme Court not hazardous

Updated Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 | 5 p.m.

An anthrax scare forced the evacuation of four justices and more than 100 employees from the Nevada Supreme Court building Thursday.

But the white powdery substance discovered in an envelope was found to be nonhazardous, and authorities believe it was sent by an inmate in the state prison near here.

It was apparently talcum powder, said Chief Justice Mark Gibbons, who was informed by authorities after the substance was recovered.

Carson City Fire Chief Stacy Giomi said an employee was opening mail when powder fell out of one of the envelopes that was marked "Anthrax."

Ken Letourneau, chief of security for the court, said, "We have an idea who sent it and he isn't going anywhere." Inmates at the state prison must put their identification numbers on their outgoing mail.

Giomi said the female employee opened the letter and notified security. "She was calm, cooperative and not hysterical," he said.

A four-block length on Stewart Street in front of the court was blocked off. Fire trucks, sheriff's cars and an ambulance were parked in front of the building.

Gibbons, who has been on the court for 12 years, said this is the first time this has happened in his tenure.

Gibbons and Justices Michael Douglas, Ron Parraguirre and Michael Cherry were in the building.

Federal state and local law enforcement officers responded to the scene around 1 p.m. The FBI is in charge of the investigation.

Two women in the clerk's office who were near the envelope were given protective clothing. They were isolated in an adjoining room to where the envelope was opened and stayed there with a security guard. Giomi said they apparently suffered no ill effects.

Gibbons told the workers to go home. The court has an underground garage and those employees with their car keys were allowed to drive away. Gibbons and several others did not have their keys on them when they were evacuated and were forced to wait outside until security recovered their keys inside the building.

Two hazardous materials officers in protected clothing entered the court to recover the substance and they led the women and the security officer out of the building, which was closed for the rest of the day.

Giomi said a preliminary analysis of the powder found it to be "nonhazardous," but a full test will be made later in Reno.

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