On a day of heightened tensions sparked by a series of suspicious packages sent to various Democratic political leaders, local and federal authorities descended on a South Los Angeles mail facility Wednesday due to a suspect package addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters.
The FBI confirmed Wednesday evening that in addition to five packages received at locations earlier in New York, the Washington D.C. area and Florida targeting politicians such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, two additional packages, similar in appearance to the others, were addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles.
Waters said earlier in the day that a suspicious letter with her name on it was intercepted at a congressional mail-sorting facility in Maryland.
“I have been informed by U.S. Capitol Police that my Washington, D.C., office was the target of a suspicious package that has been referred to the FBI,” Waters said. “I am appreciative of the law enforcement entities who intercepted the package and are investigating this matter. I unequivocally condemn any and all acts of violence and terror.”
Hours later, at about 2 p.m., the South Los Angeles mail facility near Central and Florence avenues was evacuated following the discovery of a suspicious item addressed to Waters. An LAPD bomb squad responded to the scene, along with various federal agencies.
According to the FBI, both packages sent to Waters were similar to ones found earlier in the day on the East Coast. One of those earlier packages was directed to former President Barack Obama in Washington and another to ex-Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in New York.
Another suspicious package containing what police described as a potentially live explosive device was also received at CNN’s headquarters in New York, addressed to former CIA chief John Brennan. The building was evacuated, and the package was removed by a bomb squad.
The return address on the envelope sent to CNN headquarters had the name and address of Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former Democratic National Committee chair. Another suspicious device was addressed to former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder, but when it couldn’t be delivered, it was forwarded to the return address on the envelope — also Shultz’s office in Florida.
On Monday, a suspicious item was found in a mailbox at the Bedford, New York, home of George Soros, the liberal philanthropist who is a frequent target of criticism from far-right groups.
Los Angeles police issued a statement early Wednesday that it was monitoring the investigation on the East Coast, but at that time, there was “no nexus to Los Angeles.”
Early Wednesday afternoon, an LAPD bomb squad responded to a home in the Bel Air area. Police did not release any specifics of the response, saying only that the investigation ultimately turned up only harmless, miscellaneous papers.
Fox11 reported from the scene that the home was that of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and a staffer at the home contacted authorities after spotting something in the mail, but it turned out not to present any type of threat.
Meanwhile, several suspicious letters were spotted shortly after 11 a.m. by employees in a Los Angeles Times mail room in El Segundo. El Segundo police Sgt. Aaron Corkins said some people were initially evacuated from the mail center — which is separate from the Times’ main building — but crews quickly determined the letters did not contain explosives. A hazardous materials team was brought in to check the letters to ensure they did not contain any toxic materials. Police said around 6 p.m. that the letters were determined to be safe.
According to The Times, the envelopes were addressed to “knots berry farm sweets” with a Los Angeles Times return address, even though the items were not sent from the paper.
In San Diego, the building housing the San Diego Union-Tribune and an office of Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., was briefly evacuated following the discovery of a suspicious pile of boxes outside, but that evacuation was lifted when the boxes were determined to contain everyday items.