Letters lead police to Eugene

A HAZMAT team from Gresham Fire and Emergency Services exits the Wasco County sheriff’s office Monday with Deputy Jeff Hall, right, after being called to investigate a suspicious letter, which turned out not to contain any hazardous materials.

EUGENE (AP) — A Eugene area man was detained for questioning and then released late Tuesday in connection with suspicious letters that were sent to 24 county sheriff’s offices, two Portland TV stations reported.

Lane County Sheriff Byron Trapp was among the letters’ recipients, an Oregon State Police spokesman said Tuesday morning.

The man did not appear to pose a risk to the public, and was released on unspecified misdemeanor charges, state police Lt. Bill Fugate told KATU-TV. The man could face additional charges after the district attorneys in each of the respective counties that received letters investigate the case, Fugate told the station.

The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office was one of the recipients of the letters.

When the man was questioned, police confirmed he was the individual who sent the letters, but investigators did not find any hazardous material in the letters he sent, KATU reported.

The individual’s name has not been released, but Fugate confirmed that the man is from the Eugene area, the station said.

KPTV in Portland said police have not speculated on what the man’s motive might have been, but said they do not believe there is any remaining threat.

The FBI and state police launched a statewide investigation Monday after multiple sheriff’s offices received the letters.

Sheriffs around the state reported receiving envelopes containing rambling, incoherent messages.

The Association of Oregon Counties reported that 24 of Oregon’s 36 counties received a suspicious envelope. “AOC is deeply concerned that someone would target Oregon county sheriffs with this kind of a threat,” the association said in a statement.

Initial reports suggested that some of the letters or envelopes might have included a toxic substance or white powder. However, the FBI later reported that field testing by hazardous materials crews showed no such substances or powder.

However, Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer was taken to a hospital on Monday after he opened a letter at his office in Canyon City and felt a burning sensation in his face and arms, a metallic taste in his mouth, and numbness and tingling in his lips.

Palmer said he secured the letter in an evidence bag and had his wife take him to the hospital.

He was held for observation, but doctors didn’t determine a cause for his symptoms, Palmer said. He was back at work Tuesday.

Lane County Emergency Manager Linda Cook said the sheriff’s office was contacted Monday about the letters that had begun appearing at other sheriff’s offices earlier in the day. But locally, the mail had already been opened by the time word of the suspicious letters had reached authorities.

Cook said the county employee who opened the sheriff’s office mail had already left for the day, but was contacted at home once the office was alerted.

“We asked her if she had received anything strange, and she said ‘No, nothing strange, except one bizarre letter about women,’?” Cook said. “And that’s when we connected the dots.”

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