Person Of Interest Questioned In Poison Letter Attacks On Obama, Bloomberg
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Angry letters mailed to President Barack Obama, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his gun
control group contained threats about shooting people in the face, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Thursday.
CBS 2 has learned law enforcement is questioning a person of interest in the case.
Earlier, the Joint Terrorism Task Force expanded its search for the person responsible for sending two poison-laced letters to the mayor and a third to the president as new details emerged about the contents of the threatening notes.
Kelly described the ricin-laced, type-written letters — all from an irate gun rights advocate.
“There are three letters. The letters are the same. They are addressed on the envelope, not on the letter itself. On the letter it says ‘you’ and then it starts off with the narrative,” Kelly said.
Three sources told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer the letters contained the following threat:
“You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face. The right to bear arms is my constitutional, God-given right and I will exercise that right till the day I die. What’s in this letter is nothing compared to what I’ve got planned for you,” the note read.
The letters were postmarked from a Shreveport, La., post office with no return address. Since Shreveport is a postal processing center, officials said it’s possible the letters came from a different state. The location the letters were mailed from is part of the ongoing investigation, Kramer reported.
“We’ve been asked to stay away from the postal address. The feds asked us not to put out that information,” Kelly said.
Officials told Kramer the letters are being studied for fingerprints and subject to a whole host of forensic tests, including the type of ink and paper used.
Kelly said the letters apparently all came from the same machine. The letters sent to Bloomberg contained an oily pinkish-orange substance. It wasn’t clear if the missive to Obama contained the same substance.
The anonymous letters to Bloomberg were opened in New York on Friday at the city’s mail facility in Manhattan and in Washington on Sunday at an office used by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the nonprofit he started, police said Wednesday.
Mayor Bloomberg visited the mailroom and correspondence unit at 100 Gold St., on Thursday to thank employees there. The envelope was opened in a bio-chemical containment box, which is part of the regular scanning process for suspicious mail sent to the mayor and the NYPD, Kramer reported.
Emergency service cops who were called to the scene after the letter was deemed suspicious took careful precautions.
“They were suited up in total protective gear,” Kelly said.
The people who initially came into contact with the letters showed no symptoms of exposure to the poison, but three officers who later examined the New York letter experienced minor symptoms that have since abated, police said.
“In terms of why they’ve done it, I don’t know,” Bloomberg said at an event Wednesday night.
One of the letters “obviously referred to our anti-gun efforts, but there’s 12,000 people who are going to get killed this year with guns and 19,000 that are going to commit suicide with guns, and we’re not going to walk away from those efforts,” said Bloomberg.
The letters were the latest in a string of toxin-laced missives. In Washington state, a 37-year-old was charged last week with threatening to kill a federal judge in a letter that contained ricin. About a month earlier, letters containing the substance were addressed to President Obama, a U.S. senator and a Mississippi judge. A Mississippi man was arrested in that case.
Police said the letter in Washington, D.C., was opened by Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He was working out of the offices of The Raben Group, a Washington lobbying firm where he keeps an office. Glaze happened to open the letter while sitting outside over the Memorial Day weekend, said the firm’s founder, Robert Raben.
“I’m very concerned about our employees and co-workers and clients. I’m sorry that we live in a world in which people do such awful things. Thank God, right now, everybody’s physically fine,” Raben said by phone Wednesday, adding that the firm would do whatever needed to ensure safety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, vomiting and redness on the skin depending on how the affected person comes into contact with the poison.
“It can be absorbed, it can be fatal in very minute doses,” said Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensics expert at John Jay College. “It’s far more dangerous if it’s injected or inhaled on eaten.”
In addition to the ricin-laced letters sent to Bloomberg, Kelly said Thursday that police are also investigating two letters sent to public advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio that were smeared with blood.
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