ESSEX JUNCTION, VERMONT – A suspicious package cleared the parking lot at Prouty Federal Building and shut down surrounding streets in Essex Junction shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday.
“It’s crazy, you know, you never expect it in Essex,” said Lisa Booska, a witness.
And by lunch time, the Vermont State Police Bomb Squad was suited up and on the scene.
“Basically was told there could be a suspicious package underneath a black SUV and you either have to go in the store or you have to go home,” Mark Lucia said.
Lucia watched with binoculars from his yard as officers got to work trying to determine if there was any real threat.
“Whenever you have a federal building, there have just been too many instances in the country. It’s underneath the car; it’s underneath the gas tank, the position of it. It was just something to be cautious with. You’re better off to be cautious,” Essex Police Lt. Robin Hollwedel said.
It took police nearly four hours at the scene with robots and X-ray cameras before they determined the cooler was empty.
“I want to take in the whole scene, make sure there are not any other dangers to me as I go down and deal with the suspicious package, and make sure that there is not any collateral damage” said David Petersen of the Vt. State Police Bomb Squad.
While folks surrounding the area were relieved to find out they weren’t in danger, some questioned the response time of the bomb squad. The crew assigned to the scene came all the way from St. Johnsbury.
“We do try to make as expedited responses as possible, obviously. Due to the scenario today, it just played out that it was going to be me coming out from the other side of the state,” Petersen said.
Some at the site laughed that the incident was an overreaction and much ado about nothing, but police say they’d rather be safe than sorry.
“There may have been a time when we didn’t look at these things seriously, but every one of these instances is taken seriously now,” Hollwedel said.
Thursday afternoon police reported their investigation into the cooler was complete. Police say there was no note or evidence of intent to do harm in or around the cooler.