The FBI is investigating a suspicious package containing explosives left unattended by security guards for three weeks inside a 26-story federal building in Detroit, according to law enforcement officials.
The package, containing “explosive components,” is at the FBI crime lab in Quantico for further testing as a federal investigation continues, according to FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtol.
The Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building in downtown Detroit houses regional offices for the FBI, IRS, Social Security Administration, Peace Corps and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Law enforcement sources blamed the incident on private security guards and inspectors with the Federal Protective Service, a tiny Homeland Security agency responsible for protecting more than 9,000 federal facilities nationwide.
A law enforcement source said the suspicious package was brought by a private security guard into the building, where it remained, unopened and unscreened, for about three weeks. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said security officers thought the package might have belonged to someone on a nearby construction crew.
About three weeks later, security personnel decided to screen the package, became alarmed at the results and called federal authorities and the Detroit police department’s bomb squad. “They weren’t sure what it was, but thought it better to get it out of the building,’’ the source said. “That’s when everyone converged on the building.”
Asked why the package was not screened for three weeks, the law enforcement official said: “You’d think they would have screened it.’’
A private security guard involved in the incident has been suspended until further notice, according to a senior FPS official. Similar disciplinary action will be taken against contract and FPS-employed guards if the investigation determines others are culpable, the official said.
Levin and his staff have been briefed on the ongoing investigation and he “is eager to learn the results of that investigation,” a spokeswoman said.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests for information.