Suspicious substance prompts large evacuation in Shoreview


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Lab results later confirm the envelope’s contents to be a food substance

Ramsey County Sheriff Deputies were dispatched to a Wells Fargo Operations Center in Shoreview on Thursday, April 25 at 2:30 p.m. when a suspicious substance found in an envelope was reported.

The North Suburban Hazardous Materials Team (NSHMT), along with several members of the Lake Johanna Fire Department and Allina Medical staff members also responded to the scene at 1801 Park View Drive.

According to the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, Wells Fargo security and building management had safely evacuated the 500 employees from the facility when authorities arrived.

One person who reportedly had contact with the envelope containing the suspicious substance was treated on scene and then transported to the Hennepin County Medical Center for further evaluation. That person did not have any noticeable adverse symptoms and was soon released, according to a police report.

Authorities quickly secured the building, while the NSHMT removed the substance and sent it to the Minnesota Department of Health laboratory for testing. The NSHMT then tested the area for radiation and decontaminated the affected area.

Randy Gustafson, public information officer for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office said that lab results -- obtained Friday morning -- confirmed the powdery substance found in the envelope to be harmless.

“You can safely call it a food substance,” Gustafson said.

He said the health department officials who analyzed the contents believe it may be a crushed cereal product.

Although this incident appears to be a hoax, it is no laughing matter to the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that had to use valuable resources and personnel, or to Wells Fargo, which not only had to evacuate the facility, but also had to suspend its operations for several hours, costing thousands of dollars.

The NSHMT alone had 20-25 members at the scene, according to Lake Johanna Fire Chief and NSHMT member Tim Boehlke.

Boehlke credits Wells Fargo management, who he said did a nice job getting his team access to engineers, detailed maps and evacuating employees.

The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office also commended Wells Fargo management for the efficient way they handled a potentially disastrous situation.

“The concern for the safety of their employees was very evident in the way they responded,” Gustafson said of Wells Fargo security and management. “They had a plan in place and executed it perfectly.”

Peggy Gunn, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said Wells Fargo has internal safety and security measures in place, but declined to talk about what those are, citing concern over security.

“We don’t like to talk about our internal training or security. We believe that’s why it works so well,” Gunn said. “The safety and security of our employees is of the utmost importance.”

She said operations resumed in most of the facility by 6 p.m. with the exception of the small area authorities had closed off for investigation, but things were back to normal the following day (Friday).

Gustafson said investigators have a suspect in the case, who has been questioned by authorities, but at press time no arrests had been made.

If an arrest is made it is unclear what the individual(s) would be charged with or if law enforcement agencies and Wells Fargo will seek restitution. Gustafson said more details on charges would be available when an arrest is made. For now, he said the department would not discuss the matter any further during an open investigation.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824.

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