By Laura Blenkinsop
Ryerson staff were quarantined and decontaminated after an envelope containing a page-long death threat covered in suspicous white powder was slipped under the door at enrolment services on Monday.
It is the second powder-filled letter to bring the Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Unit to Ryerson in six weeks.
“It was an implied death threat,” said Brian Bertram, the HazMat Captain who responded to the call. “There were some personal attacks with assumptions towards an individual but no names or anything like that.”
A custodian found the envelope that was addressed to someone in enrollment services at 6 a.m. Powder had leaked and covered the outside of the letter-sized envelope and she was quarantined along with at least two other university staff, including another custodian and a manager from enrollment services. Along with the manager and two security guards who responded to the call, she was taken through decontamination where she changed into disposable coveralls and her clothes and belongings were sealed.
Tests on the powder done at the scene were inconclusive and while more recent tests say it was just flour, Harry Morris, the detective in charge of the case, said there is still a risk and more tests are being done.
“It is possible that there could be a substance in the flour and the flour was just a mixing agent or the flour disguises, lets say if it’s anthrax or something like that, another chemical and it will take another 72 hours before those tests come back,” he said.
The ground floor of the library building was closed off and classes in LIB 72 were cancelled and have been moved until the test results are in.
“It makes you angry, it’s beyond my understanding as to why an individual would do this,” said Ryerson President Sheldon Levy.
On Sept. 17, a Ryerson administrator received a death threat laced with pink powder in a letter sent to her 12th floor office. Bertram called it “domestic terrorism on a smaller scale.”
“Basically, it’s a repeat of the same situation,” he said of Monday’s incident. But he said “there were some different protocols used and there was some extenuating circumstances that required us to take a different tack on this particular call.” He would not explain what the extenuating circumstances were.
Though the situations are similar, Morris said that so far police have not made a connection between the two powder scares. They suspect a male Ryerson student sent the first threat and have “a few people in mind,” for Monday’s incident.
Morris said he is looking through security videos to find out who slid the letter under the door.
A crowd of students gathered outside the Library building for most of the morning, watching HazMat specialists as they were hosed down.
“It was chaotic. I needed to work on my essay with my TA and we had to go into a crowded room in the Victoria building,” said Basha Piekarski, a second-year psychology student.
Ryerson security called HazMat again at 12:15 a.m. when they realized that a plastic garbage bag containing a piece of clothing that belonged to one of the staff who went through decontamination had been left behind.
“We called them to pick it up and then they came and they ended up not taking it with them,” said Imre Juurlink, security supervisor. She would not say why HazMat did not remove the bag.
— With files from Topaz London