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Bomb note leads to evacuation at Merced parole office

Nine employees in the state parole office in Merced were evacuated Tuesday afternoon after a note was found indicating there was a bomb in the building and that the letter had ricin on it.

No toxics or explosives were found and no one was injured.

The letter, possibly written by an inmate at the John Latorraca Adult Correctional Facility, ultimately was not deemed a hazardous materials issue and Merced Police Department Bomb Squad members did not locate any explosives at the office at 1579 W. Main St. during a sweep.

Merced police detectives questioned the prisoner, in custody since last October, about the letter, which had his return address on the envelope. The prisoner denied sending the letter, said police Cmdr. Floyd Higdon.

Since the parole office is a state building, the California Highway Patrol took control of the scene at the west end of West Main Street.

Bomb squad members Dave Alcaraz and Tim Gaches donned hazardous materials suits and air tanks and went through the parole office without finding anything suspicious.

Ricin, a poison found naturally in castor beans, can be in powder, mist or pellet form or it can be dissolved in water or weak acid. Effects of ricin poisoning depend on whether it is inhaled, ingested or injected, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The parole office parking lot was cordoned-off with crime scene tape and the employees waited at an adjacent abandoned building until the scene was clear. Environmental health officials deemed the ricin threat not to be credible, Higdon said.

The inmate was placed in isolation while the investigation continues.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached

at (209) 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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