AUGUSTA — A suspicious package that prompted the closure and evacuation Monday of the federal building in a highly trafficked area of the city was ultimately determined by authorities to be empty.

Federal, state and local law enforcement officials converged on the federal building in Augusta following a report just before 11 a.m. of a suspicious package at the U.S. Postal Service branch at Sewall Street and Western Avenue.

For more than three hours, law enforcement restricted access to the area, blocking off Sewall Street to traffic and issuing a shelter-in-place order to St. Michael’s School, located on Sewall Street across Western Avenue from the Edmund S. Muskie Federal Building.

The package was removed from the building shortly before 2 p.m., after an examination by a member of the Maine State Police Bomb Squad and a robot. Sewall Street was reopened shortly after that.

The response by law enforcement comes about six weeks after suspicious packages, determined to be pipe bombs, were sent to prominent Democrats and the New York office of cable news broadcaster CNN in the days before the hotly contested midterm elections. Only days after the first bomb was identified, authorities arrested Florida resident Cesar Sayoc, who had expressed deeply partisan opinions on social media. In the criminal complaint, authorities allege he was responsible for sending at least 13 potential explosive devices.

In addition to the post office, the federal building in Augusta houses offices for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration among others.


Kevin Cullen, principal of the Catholic school for grades one through eight, said for the duration of the shelter in place order, no one was allowed in or out of the school.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Monday afternoon that the box was found to be empty.

Rob Sperling, director of communications for the Federal Protective Service in the Department of Homeland Security, said the all clear was given at about 2 p.m., and employees were free to return to the building.

Sperling said he didn’t have any details about the package or its fate.

A report of an unattended package late Monday morning prompted the evacuation of the post office, Sperling said. On further examination, the package was deemed to be suspicious; all offices were evacuated and the Maine State Police bomb squad was called.

“We take these things very seriously,” Sperling said.


Staff photographer Andy Molloy contributed to this report.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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