Police deactivate ‘device’
More than 50 homes were evacuated Saturday evening while officials took steps to make sure a suspicious device found near the Islamic Center of Lafayette was deactivated safely.
“State police emergency service personnel were able to render the device safe,” said Trooper Stephen Hammons, Louisiana State Police spokesman.
Hammons said that a telephone tip led police to a briefcase leaning against a fence near the Islamic Center at the corner of Tulane Avenue and Taft Street.
Although he did not say what was in the briefcase, Hammons did say the device was a threat that required special care and precautions.
“The state police have personnel with the expertise to handle certain substances and explosives,” Hammons explained, “and that expertise was certainly required in this case.”
Agencies are working to determine exactly what was inside of the briefcase.
He said that because of overlapping jurisdictions, a point agency would be determined and more details made available in the near future.
He expected the clean up and recovery operation on the scene to continue into the late hours of Saturday night.
Representatives of the FBI, Lafayette Fire Department, Lafayette Police Department, state police and their respective hazardous materials teams were called on the scene to investigate.
Officials cordoned off nine city blocks encompassing West University Avenue and St. Mary Boulevard and Taft and Harding streets.
Cpl. Paul Mouton, Lafayette police spokesman, said people were inside the Islamic Center at the time of the call.
Fifty houses and three apartment buildings were forced to evacuate as a precaution.
Officials used special equipment to determine what the package was and how dangerous it was.
As of 7:30 p.m., the nine blocks around the center were stilled closed.
Hammons said they could not rule out explosive or chemical agents in the briefcase.
Federal agents were on scene to assist local law enforcement agencies, including the FBI.
The suspicious package at the Islamic Center comes on the heels of a car that was set on fire at the center Sept. 21.
The FBI is investigating the fire as a possible hate crime because of where it occurred.
No suspects have been identified yet in the arson case, but a $2,500 reward was offered this month to help find a suspect.
Original post: Police deactivate ‘device’