Federal Courthouse Evacuated Due To Suspicious Letter

U.S. Marshals Service: "I've never recalled an instance like this”

A letter containing suspicious white powder led to a street closure and a building evacuation in Sioux Falls Monday.

The incident brought out Police, Fire, the Hazmat team and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“I’ve been here five years and I’ve never recalled an instance like this,” says U.S. Marshals Service Chief Deputy for South Dakota Scott Rolstad.

It’s not a scene you see every day: Sioux Falls Police blocking off the normally heavily trafficked Philips Avenue, and the Sioux Falls Fire Hazmat team inspecting the Federal Court House.

“We came on the scene and initially sent two people in to do some immediate dangerous to life and health testing,” says Sioux Falls Fire Battalion Chief Steve Brunette.

It all began around 11 a.m.

“The U.S. Marshals Service received a notification of a suspicious letter containing a white powdery substance,” explains Chief Deputy Rolstad.

Officials say two clerks in the U.S. Clerk’s Office were exposed to the material when it fell out of the envelope and onto one woman’s clothes as she was opening it.

“At that time we decided to evacuate the courthouse,” adds Chief Deputy Rolstad.

Employees waited on the north side for nearly two hours, while officials inspected the building.

After both the Hazmat team and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service both confirmed that the substance was not dangerous, employees were let back in.

While the scene was rare, “I think this is an isolated incident, I don’t expect it to be repeated anytime soon,” says Chief Deputy Rolstad, he says the response was necessary.

“In the world we live in now, anytime there’s a potential threat, I think law enforcement in conjunction with other agencies, we take these matters seriously.”

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to test the substance to find out what it is.

Officials did, however, rule out anthrax.

There was a note inside the letter and a name, but agents are not releasing that information because the investigation is ongoing.