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Bomb prank clears out medical office

A two-story medical office complex was evacuated Thursday afternoon when a suspicious note was found on top of a package delivery drop box. The Merced Police Department's bomb squad, using its remote control robot, determined the envelope was a hoax and no explosives were found.

The San Simeon Professional Center at 3351 M St. was closed from 12:40 p.m. until after 3 p.m. An note threatening people it would blow up into 100 pieces will be sent to the state Department of Justice crime laboratory for analysis of DNA and fingerprints.

Officer Tim Gaches, with the bomb squad, said officers have to take such a note seriously, even though it inconvenienced a large number of people. Officer Dave Alcaraz, bomb squad supervisor, said this incident was more of a prank. The bomb squad's robot was able to look inside the California Overnight box and saw one package addressed to Los Angeles, with a telephone number on the outside. When the intended recipient was called, they told police they were expecting the package.

Dr. Matt Rowan, an endodontist practicing in the complex, said a number of patients were scheduled Thursday afternoon.

"In this day and age it's wise to be safe. It's probably nothing. It's probably an angry person or someone screwing around," Rowan said.

The mechanical arms of the bomb robot broke the key off in the lock before gaining entry to the drop box. The robot's remote cameras scanned the area and one of the three officers clad in a green bomb suit walked up to the drop box and determined there was no hazard.

After helping evacuate people from the building and taping off the area, Officer Ken Coe stood by for nearly three hours, telling those driving by the complex for medical appointments that the complex was closed, for the time being.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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