GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two public elementary schools and a college in metro Grand Rapids received threatening letters Wednesday, two of which contained suspicious powder.
At Calvin College, a suspicious substance was found at the mail and print building. An alert was sent out to students early Wednesday afternoon saying the college had received a threatening letter that contained a powdery substance that was referred to in the letter as anthrax.
Police closed the building, located at 3230 Lake Dr. SE on the north side of campus, for a time as a precaution while the threat’s credibility was investigated. Four people were inside the building at when the threat was discovered, but no one was evacuated, according to a Calvin spokesperson. The threat was limited to the mail print services building.
Authorities have since confirmed the substance was not anthrax.
An update was released just after 2:45 p.m. by the school that the substance had been tested by a hazmat team and that the mail building had reopened. Normal campus operations resumed, a college spokesperson said.
“We feel very fortunate that no one was harmed today by this threat, that our emergency response protocols worked and worked really well. I think the biggest reassurance you can give to parents in a very dangerous world theses days is that Calvin College responded in an appropriate way,” Calvin College President Michael Le Roy said.
“This is a crime, what happened today. Making a threat in the manner it was made is a crime. It’s a felony, minimally,” Grand Rapids Police Department Capt. Curt VanderKooi said.
There was a similar incident at Kentwood Public Schools’ Bowen Elementary, which received a letter with a bomb threat that also contained what turned out to be crushed up cold medicine, according to a release from the district.
The release said that upon receiving the letter, the school’s principal Blair Feldkamp isolated himself in his office and immediately called the police and fire departments. District safety protocols were followed and students and staff were evacuated as authorities investigated. The threat was soon deemed not credible, and students and staff returned to the building after about an hour.
“I am proud of the building leadership,” Superintendent Mike Zoerhoff said in a statement. “Principal Feldkamp took immediate action to ensure the safety of our children and district.”
Zoerhoff also asked that people “not engage in speculative attention.”
“While it is human nature to want to discuss it, we ask instead that our focus be on the many positive events happening across the district,” the superintendent said.
He said questions and concerns can be directed to school leaders and district administration. Zoerhoff also thanked police and firefighters for their prompt response.
Godfrey Elementary in Wyoming also received an “unusual piece of mail,” according to a statement from the superintendent, but did not open it. Students were sheltered in place while the letter was investigated. Authorities searched the school and tested the letter, and soon gave an all-clear.
In a statement on the district’s website, Godfrey Lee Public Schools Superintendent David Britten praised the professionalism of staff and helpful response from students, and thanked the Wyoming Police Department, Wyoming Fire Department and Kentwood Fire Department for their assistance.
Wyoming police Capt. Kim Koster said no other schools in the city received threats Wednesday.
FBI spokesperson David Porter told 24 Hour News 8 that the FBI is “aware” of the incidents and is working with local partner agencies. He said this is not an FBI investigation.
Larry Johnson, the Executive Director of Public Safety & Security at Grand Rapids Public Schools, told 24 Hour News 8 that while GRPS did not receive any threats, officials were aware of the situation in Kentwood and at Godfrey Lee and Calvin College. GRPS has a crisis plan in place, written following the anthrax scares in the early 2000s, that dictates how to handle suspicious packages. Building principals received emails Wednesday making them aware of the threats and reminding them of the crisis plan.