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Threat to Akron federal building leads to Downtown evacuation

A police officer and bomb dog walk toward the John F. Seiberling Federal Building.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
A police officer and bomb dog search the perimeter of the John F. Seiberling Federal Building on Jan. 4, 2023, after a bomb threat.

The John F. Seiberling Federal Building in Downtown Akron was evacuated Wednesday following the discovery of a bomb threat. The building houses the U.S. District Court and several federal offices.

Akron Fire Chief Joe Natko speaks at a press conference.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Akron Fire Chief Joe Natko explained the bomb threat at the John F. Seiberling Federal Building on Jan. 4, 2022.

Akron Fire Department received a call at 9:44 am about an employee being exposed to a white powdery substance in the mail room, Chief Joe Natko said. The substance was in an envelope opened by an employee. Natko could not say who the envelope was addressed to, and he did not disclose what the note said, only that it is in evidence. The employee in the mailroom was the only person exposed to the substance. She was checked out and has since been released from the hospital, Natko said.

"There was nothing wrong with them, but they still had the white powdery substance on them," Natko said.

When the fire department arrived on the scene, they called for a full hazmat response from the Akron Fire Department and Summit County, Natko said. Hazmat crews discovered the bomb threat within the envelope. They proceeded to also evacuate all buildings within a block of the federal building. Summit County Bomb Squad was brought in, and bomb dogs searched the building, Natko said. Akron Police, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI were also on the scene.

Akron Police closed West Market Street from Rand Street to Broadway and South Main Street from MLK Boulevard to East Mill Street. Mayor Dan Horrigan's office tweeted around 2:30 pm that emergency officials were reopening the roads.

The substance in the envelope was determined through a field test to not be immediately dangerous to life or health, Natko said, and the building has been cleared.

"The sweep of the building was just completed," Natko said. "They came back with nothing, so they did have some concerns which they looked at very closely. They found nothing."

Surrounding buildings are being allowed to reenter, Natko said.

It's still unclear what the substance is. More testing will be done to determine this, Natko said. No suspect has been identified.

"It was quite a large threat that we faced. White powdery substance, bomb, all in the federal building," Natko said. "That's why we did everything that we did to make sure everyone around them, everyone in the federal building and our own safety forces were secure and safe."

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media. A Northeast Ohio native and lifelong listener of public radio, Abigail started in public radio as a news intern at WKSU. She graduated in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Kent State University.