Five suspicious packages were left outside the building housing The San Diego Union-Tribune and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’s San Diego office early Thursday morning, prompting evacuations. Police have confirmed that the bomb scare was a false alarm.
NBC 7 San Diego reports that the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) cleared the packages, which contained an empty bag of chips, a hat, a football, children’s books, and a shoe. The building, 600 B Street in downtown San Diego, also houses law firms, tech companies, and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
Other journalism outlets and political figures faced similar scares this week; CNN headquarters and prominent Democrats Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Andrew Cuomo, and Barack Obama all received explosive devices in the mail. TV station CBS47 Fresno also evacuated because of a suspicious package, although the event turned out to be a false alarm.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the mail bombs an “act of terror, attempting to undermine our free press and leaders of this country through acts of violence.”
Surveillance footage showed an unidentifiable individual leaving the San Diego packages unattended at 1:45 a.m. An officer was flagged to the location at 8:00 a.m. Parts of 6th Avenue and B Street were closed shortly after, and the building’s tenants promptly evacuated.
While none of the parcels were addressed directly to the newspaper or the political office, the SDPD told the Union-Tribune that the precautions were standard procedure.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we take these measures,” SDPD Lt. Kevin Wadhams said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Union-Tribune reporter Gary Robbins reached the office today after the building had already been evacuated. While he and his colleagues are relieved that this was a false alarm, he constantly worries for the safety of journalists covering political rallies.
“It’s very disturbing to see the bomb squad pull up to your building,” Robbins told The Triton. “We’re like anybody else—before we left work this morning a lot of us were watching the bomb threats on CNN.”
Harris’s office expressed gratitude to the police for their timely response.
Our office was evacuated today after suspicious packages were found near the building. The packages were not addressed to the Senator or our office. We are grateful to the San Diego Police Department for their work to swiftly investigate this issue.
— Lily Adams (@adamslily) October 24, 2018
Among those interning at Harris’s local office are San Diego State University senior Harrison Baum, as well as UC San Diego senior and The Triton staffer Nadia Hartvigsen. Baum, like Robbins, reached work shortly after the building’s evacuation.
“I was on my way to the 600 B Street building when my supervisor called me, saying that the building was temporarily on lockdown,” Baum said. “Shortly after, she called to tell me the building was being fully evacuated. Overall, the whole thing is really frightening…I’m extremely thankful for the vigilance of whoever flagged the package and alerted authorities.”
Hartvigsen believes the string of confirmed attacks are politically motivated and linked to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric.
So grateful that @KamalaHarris San Diego office is safe. This type of violence is not unprecedented. We should not be surprised that people take the administration’s threats against Dems & journalists to heart and retaliate in their own ways.
— baddia (@baddiaheart) October 24, 2018
In response to the attempted nationwide attacks, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence tweeted condemnations and lauded law enforcement officials’ responses. Federal investigations to find the perpetrators are ongoing.
I agree wholeheartedly! https://t.co/ndzu0A30vU
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2018
“The fact that [these threats] happened seems to be a reflection of the anger in this country,” Robbins said. “Everybody is on edge, and it seems to stem from the polarization.”
Rohan Grover is an Assistant News Editor for The Triton. You can follow him on Twitter @rohangro.