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Iowa State Representative, Ako Abdul-Samad recieves threatening letter containing mysterious powder

4 April 2012 General 40 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
Rep Abdul-Samad talks about letter: Rep Abdul-Samad talks about letter/powder after all clear is called at Iowa Statehouse.

Rep Abdul-Samad talks about letter: Rep Abdul-Samad talks about letter/powder after all clear is called at Iowa Statehouse.


A threatening letter containing a mysterious powder sent the Iowa Capitol into lockdown and delayed action in the House for several hours on Tuesday.

Ultimately, a hazardous materials team found the substance not to be dangerous and released a crowd of perhaps 300 lawmakers, staffers and observers who had been sequestered in the House chamber and elsewhere at the Statehouse.

The letter was received by Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, late Tuesday afternoon and was opened on the House floor in the midst of debate.

Abdul-Samad told reporters Tuesday evening that the letter contained “very threatening” language but declined to describe it in detail, citing an investigation now under way by state police.

“I cannot talk about what was in the letter at this point, because it’s turned over now to the State Patrol and also to DCI, but it was a threatening letter,” he said, referring to the state Division of Criminal Investigation. “This has now become a very serious legal matter.”

The haz-mat crew emerges from the Statehouse with a suspicious substance.

The haz-mat crew emerges from the Statehouse with a suspicious substance.

Abdul-Samad’s clerk, Drake Law School student Michael McRae, opened the letter after retrieving it from the lawmaker’s mailbox in the Capitol rotunda. The powder billowed out, he said, covering the area around Abdul-Samad’s desk, McRae’s clothing and hands, and even being inhaled by Abdul-Samad.

Rep. Kevin Koester, R-Ankeny, who said he was sitting near Abdul-Samad after the letter was opened and saw a white powder spill from an envelope, said the substance looked like flour or powdered sugar. Others described it as resembling a powdered detergent.

Abdul-Samad and Iowa State Patrol Capt. Mark Logsdon declined to identify the substance.

The letter apparently was hand-delivered to the Capitol, Logsdon said.

House leaders paused the debate that was then under way at about 3:45 p.m. and directed Abdul-Samad and McRae to the vestibule separating the House chambers from the Capitol’s second-floor rotunda.

They remained there throughout the afternoon and early evening. The entire building was locked down shortly before 5 p.m.

A hazardous materials team — wearing bright yellow plastic suits with orange boots and breathing apparatus — arrived around 5:30, and appeared to collect samples both inside the vestibule with Abdul-Samad and McRae and at the lawmaker’s desk on the House floor.

The two-man team’s fluorescent safety garb and Darth Vader-like exhalations contrasted sharply with the crowd of lawmakers and staff, who milled about on the floor in shirt-sleeves. Some even stood within an arm’s reach of Abdul-Samad’s desk, snapping photos as the hazmat workers conducted their work.

At around 6 p.m., House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, reported that preliminary testing indicated the substance was not hazardous. Officials with the 71st Civil Service Team, an inter-agency cooperative responsible for dealing with potentially hazardous situations like this, completed further testing, finally giving an all-clear at 7:50 p.m.

“With the sensitivity of government, it’s a realistic threat,” said Brian O’Keefe with the Des Moines Fire Department. “That’s why we’re going to this level of security and testing.”

Lawmakers resumed considering legislation before the all-clear, and even before Abdul-Samad returned to the chamber, wrapping up debate and holding a final vote on a bill to bar cities from using traffic cameras. The decision to get back to business didn’t sit well with everyone in the chamber.

“Continuation of this debate tonight is dumb, disrespectful and in poor taste,” Rep. Nathan Willems, D-Lisbon said, addressing Paulsen from the floor.

Others criticized the manner in which the incident itself was handled.

The initial response was uncontrolled and overly dismissive, potentially exposing an unknown number of Iowans to highly lethal agents like anthrax, said Sen. Bill Dotzler, a Waterloo Democrat who is trained in toxic threats.

More than an hour after the powder was discovered, state representatives and others were moving freely out of the House chambers to other areas of the Capitol and outside the building. Some senators even joked that their House peers should be banned from the Senate chambers.

But Dotzler, who was a volunteer with the John Deere Fire Brigade and fully trained with the Waterloo hazmat team, said the situation was no laughing matter.

House members should have been immediately isolated and even removed from the chambers to an isolated area to avoid further possible exposure, he said, rather than allowed to move freely inside and outside the building.

“In the world we live in you have to take every case seriously,” he said. “People said, ‘Well, it smelled like soap.’ Well, you can mix toxic biological agents in with soap and it could be something that’s pretty bad.”

Law enforcement and Abdul-Samad himself, however, defended the way the situation played out.

“Everything was handled properly, and I’m really happy with how things were handled,” Abdul-Samad said.

Logsdon, the state patrol captain, said it was easier to second-guess the response than to manage a potentially dangerous situation in a crowded and public place.

“It’s easy to question and armchair quarterback people, but the fact of the matter is once the letter was open and the substance was airborne, then it literally contaminated everyone in there,” he said.

House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer said the situation was unprecedented for most, if not all, of the lawmakers now serving.

She said the response will be reviewed to determine if additional procedures are necessary for dealing with such situations.

“We’ll do a look back and make sure we have the systems in place that we need and the processes that make sure everyone gets here safe,” Upmeyer said.

Among the first people out of the Capitol were Michael Mericle and his grandparents, who had been visiting the building.

Mericle, who was visiting Des Moines from Omaha, said the ordeal wasn’t what he expected for his first visit to the Capitol.

“It was long,” he said. “We were walking out, and they told us to go back in. It was boring, but everyone is OK.”

Mericle passed the time by playing with his smartphone and sending text messages to friends, he said. He said he wasn’t nervous, and others in the Capitol didn’t seem to be either.

“But his mom was,” put in Julie Almquist, Mericle’s mother, who had been waiting outside the building for her son.

Almquist, who said she had interned at the Capitol while growing up in Des Moines, said she initially didn’t think the incident was a big deal, until the hours began dragging on.

They missed their dinner reservation at Splash, she said, but once they left the Capitol, they headed there anyway to try to get a table.

Original post: Mysterious powder unnerves Statehouse

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40 Comments »

  1. It’s probably just Islamophobes parodying the anthrax powder routine that harmed Tom Daschle back in 2001, but still…this is reflection on how uncivilized political discourse in the US has become, especially since Obama took power and the rise of the Tea Party.

  2. Shocking and un-Iowan!

  3. IA. State Rep. Abdul-Samed is a pillar of the community has served Des Moines well in his community center, on the Des Moines School Board and in the Iowa Assembly.
    ..It is a shame that some seditionsit would attempt to assault such a Son of Iowa!!!

  4. Figures someone Like Lynndie England would post that, you all remember this nasty little troll, she is the one that was abusing prisoners are Abu Ghraib, I have no idea if it is really her or not, I may belive its here, becasue she cant do anything face to face, no she is to much of a piece of human garbage for that, not to mention a HUGE disgrace to the uniform she is wearing.

  5. This is ridiculous! So many people could have been killed over one person’s prejudice!

  6. Hey Lynndie, how do you like being a jobless loser on top of being an Arab-killer? Seems the two go together more often than not!!! Enjoy your losertude.

  7. Zainab, even her pic looks like a troll!!!! she is one of the biggest pieces of human waste there is!

  8. Lynndie only did it for the love of her man and extra food rations.

  9. I’d agree. Her ‘man’ is no man at all, just a washed-out piece of crap and a waste of sperm and eggs. I hope this thing didn’t reproduce. But, she is feeling the heat. Karma may be exacting its revenge, but no amount of degradation for this piece of trash will ever bring those dead Arabs back. Each one being exponentially superior to her in all dimensions.

  10. Lynndie was just making living Muslim sculptures

  11. And where was the outrage when Peter King was threatened? Oh wait, the person who sent the threats was a MUSLIM!

  12. It’s easy to mistake a dog for a Muslim…

  13. YUP

  14. So illogical, such potty mouthes, so stupid, lol. The dogs here are the torturers, the liars and the idiots. Ahem ^^

  15. *mouths

  16. Suck Allah’s cock, lama

  17. The turbans are heating up

  18. SILLY MUSLIMS

  19. Americans love dogs. If you hate dogs, your not an American.

  20. Of course they aren’t American. They are muslim

  21. Do they hate dogs because they can sense fear?

  22. They would’ve loved to have the dogs when I was visiting them. The dogs would’ve let them know I was there!

  23. Lol. Llama is a Jew… hater…

  24. Damn infidels

  25. Yes. They all preach about equality, etc…but they don’t acknowledge Israel.

  26. VALID POINT

  27. Of course not. They hate anyone that can whoop their ass. Hence why everyone is an “Infidel”

  28. Okay, this dune coon isn’t any fun. Time to troll some trayfags

  29. YEAH BORING

  30. Once we leave they will start posting again…

  31. :(

  32. Lynndie and Robert, how can you call yourselfs american??? you are not only a disgrace to America, you are disgrace to the human race.

  33. Lol, Not all Americans play baseball, like dogs, and eat cherry pie. I like dogs, I just dont own one, is that your business?
    Im an American muslim, if you havent realized, the West isnt targeted by Islam, contrary to eveyones belief. Have you studied islamic history?
    Lol, playing the name game. Llama. That’s something a 12 year old would say. And my name means “beautiful lips” and people say the first thing they notice about me is my smile.
    Lol dune coons. That doesnt make sense, I live in the suburbs. Open your eyes, son.

  34. Lama Hourani… you are the best:)!!!! these people claim to be american…LOOOOL what a joke!

  35. The problem is the “man” is feeding them this and their acting like starving animals who only want more. I would probably hug Lynndie or Liddy watever the hell it is, if I ever saw her. Although, she’d probably tell me to get my dirty body away from her, which is funny cuz outta the 2, im the one that cleans after using the washroom. But thats hers to think about, I guess. Whatever

  36. Lama Hourani….LOOOOL she would have no idea!

  37. aw fuck off salman rushidie wanna be

  38. lyndie and robert your mothers suck dicks in hell

  39. join the klan lyndie and robert

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