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Bomb scare closes union

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UAPD Officer Christopher Scheopner dusts a suitcase containing two flowers, that was thought to be a bomb yesterday outside the Student Union Memorial Center. UAPD and the Tucson Police Department closed off part of campus for more than three hours as the suitcase was inspected by a bomb robot.
By Jesse Lewis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, May 3, 2004
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Police examine suitcase at student union; find flowers, not explosives

Police evacuated the Student Union Memorial Center and the Second Street Garage yesterday afternoon after someone called police about a suspicious suitcase on the north side of the union.

The suitcase was determined not to be a bomb after the Tucson Police Department's bomb squad responded to the scene around 1 p.m. and found that the package contained two dead flowers.

Police shut down the intersection of North Mountain Avenue and East Second Street and moved nearby pedestrians across the Mall to the front of the Koffler building.

The brown typewriter suitcase sat at the base of the stairs on the north side of the building near the traffic circle. The suitcase was reported to police at 11:45 a.m., said TPD Lt. Wendell Hunt.

"We called out Explosives and Emergency Detail to make a determination if it is an (explosive) device," he said.

Using a bomb disposal robot, police determined that the suitcase was not dangerous and let everyone back into the union around 2 p.m.

Police did not know exactly when the suitcase was left at the building.

Sgt. Eugene Mejia, UAPD spokesman, said police did not know if the incident was a crime because there is no evidence to determine whether the suitcase was left intentionally, and because no threat was received.

"Someone could have just left the case behind; there was no written material to indicate a crime," Mejia said.

He said police are focusing on finding the suitcase's owner.

"At this point, we are going to try to determine who the owner is and, if they left it intentionally, what their intention was," he said.

A 900-person Tucson Union High School District event, taking place in the Grand Ballroom on the third floor of the union, had to be relocated to Centennial Hall, said Victoria Christie, associate director of Dining Services.

"They told us it would be between one-and-a-half to three hours, so we moved the group to Centennial," she said.

Carlos Vega, Jr., an On Deck Deli employee, was approached by a woman around 11:30 p.m. to use the phone to call the police.

"I asked why, and she told me about the suitcase and I said, 'Oh shit.' And I got her our cordless phone," he said.

A mariachi band from Pueblo High School played a few numbers on the Mall in front of the Robert L. Nugent building, 1212 E. University Blvd., to entertain the crowds that were waiting to be relocated or to be allowed back into union.

When the union was evacuated, students were surprised at the actions police were taking.

"I didn't think it was that serious, but it is definitely important (to evacuate) because it could have been anything," said Randi Lester, an education freshman.

People attending the program in the ballroom were also glad that police were taking the necessary precautions to keep them safe.

"I'd rather be safe than sorry," said Chris Cook, a senior at Saguaro High School.

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