City Hall Evacuated|in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS (CN) – A bomb scare that forced the evacuation of St. Louis City Hall Tuesday morning could be connected to the Board of Aldermen’s approving a civilian police oversight board the day before.
     The Board of Aldermen approved the police civilian oversight board by 17-8 vote.
     The board would investigate allegations of police misconduct, research and assess police policies, operations and procedures and make findings and recommendations.
     Three months ago, debate on the board ended in a physical confrontation between supporters and opponents inside City Hall.
     The board became a hot topic after the unrest in nearby Ferguson, where violent protests erupted after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man on Aug. 9 last year.
     Supporters claim the board will increase public trust in police.
     Opponents say it will restrain police officers and interfere with investigations.
     Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard was asked by KTVI-TV whether she believed the bomb scare was related to the vote on the oversight board.
     “I believe there may be some correlation, but I just think it gives us more of a reason to strive to stop the divide in our city,” Hubbard said. “If someone was angry about that in light of everything we’ve gone through with the Ferguson situation and us having to endure certain things for 150 years with our police department, I just think it lets us know how hard we have to work.”
     City Hall was evacuated after several suspicious packages were found at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. Workers gathered in a park across the street.
     The city bomb squad, canine unit and the Fire Department investigated. No one was hurt and the packages – two CO2 tanks and a bag – were harmless.
     St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said he expected to reopen City Hall at around 12:30 p.m.
     “I am sorry that someone sought to inconvenience those with business in a public building,” Mayor Francis Slay tweeted.
     Maggie Crane, a spokeswoman for Slay, said there was no verbal or written threat, just the package.
     “This morning when employees and marshals came to work at City Hall they were alerted to a cylinder tank that you have probably seen along with a bag that was discarded not far by,” Dotson said.
     “A search of the area around City Hall identified a second similar cylinder device on the west side.”
     Dotson said police scanned other buildings in the area to see if there are any similar devices. None were reportedly found.
     “There was no device,” Dotson said. “There was no indication that there was an attempt to make a device. Right now you have CO2 cylinders, which we know can be used as an explosive device, abandoned in two very unusual, very suspicious locations.”
     The City Charter required 14 aldermen to be sworn in Tuesday. Without a guarantee that City Hall would reopen, the Board of Aldermen held an impromptu swearing in ceremony in the park across the street.
     Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed told KTVI-TV that he believed City Hall was safe.
     “Absolutely, it’s disturbing, but the thing I’m happy about, I’m happy about the response by the police department,” Reed said. “I think the police department has done a great job. The bomb squad has done a great job. They are really doing everything they can do to make sure the place is safe.”

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