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Alligator

Sand-filled backpack causes bomb scare

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Posted: Monday, October 19, 2009 1:10 pm

No drugs, no bombs, just sand.

The Reitz Union parking garage was shut down for about six hours Monday while police investigated an unattended backpack that turned out to contain 25 pounds of sand.

Police later learned the backpack had been left behind on Saturday by the JanSport backpack company.

JanSport participated in UF's Homecoming parade on Friday, driving a multicolored 1967 Volkswagen van, University Police Department Det. Michael Metz said.

The company, which parked its trailer at the union's parking garage, used the checkered black and olive-green bag as a tire wedge to keep the van in place while on display, Metz said.

No charges will be filed against any of the company's employees, he said.

Monday's saga began when a maintenance worker discovered the backpack on a loading dock at the union around 8:30 a.m. and called police.

Police closed the parking garage and barricaded part of Museum Road while the Alachua County Sheriff's Office bomb team sent a robot to take a look.

The robot discovered what appeared to be a white, powdery substance wrapped in a black plastic bag covered with duct tape, according to police.

After analyzing the substance, police initially reported it to be fabric softener.

They later changed their diagnosis to sand, however.

The mistake was made because the two substances are fairly similar, said ASO spokesman Art Forgey.

"A lot of the elements that are in sand are also found in fabric softener," Forgey said.

Sgt. J.J. Moran, commander of the ASO bomb team, said the event was good training for his squad and said it's better to be safe than sorry in situations like this.

"With the terrorist levels the way they are now, you always have to err on the side of safety," Moran said.

Though the substance in the bag turned out to be sand, many students expressed frustration over UF's decision not to send an emergency text message notifying them of the situation.

UF spokesman Steve Orlando said UF didn't send a mass text because there wasn't a clear threat to the campus.

"We use that system when there's a credible threat that has the potential to affect the entire campus," Orlando said.

Monday's situation didn't fit either of those criteria, he said.

UF also posted an explanation of its decision on its Web site.

"It is important to remember that the campus covers 2,000 acres and the incident Monday at the Student Union involved an area with a roughly 500-foot radius," the explanation reads.

Other students were a little peeved they couldn't access their vehicles in the parking garage.

The garage was shut down from around 9 a.m. to around 3 p.m.

Aicha Ouzia, a UF German major, said she had been waiting for three hours to get to her car.

"I definitely want to go home," Ouzia said.

Soon after, police began escorting people to their vehicles.

Other curious students watched the scene from the grass across the street from the union.

Justin Brousseau, a UF civil engineering major, said he was killing time between classes.

"I decided why not just wait here," Brousseau said.

His girlfriend, though not quite as interested, was there as well.

"He's my boyfriend and he wants to sit here, so I'm obliging him," said Amanda Reilly, a UF electrical engineering major.

Welcome to the discussion.

9 comments:

  • LoreliaGilmore posted at 2:56 pm on Tue, Oct 27, 2009.

    LoreliaGilmore Posts: 63

    Now what brand of fabric softener has the same elements of a sack of sand. inquiring minds what to know. Think of all the money i can save using sand as a fabric softener. wait i just bought a new washer -- front loader --child, and i don't want to mess it up. So honey Child . what on earth are you talking about-- this crazy talk-- sand and fabric softener are the same thing -- this is crazy i want answers. We have missed the Big Story here. anyway back packs on a university campus --can't be too careful . We know the blank blank that did this soo send them a bill. Amanda that's TMI.

     
  • Jessica posted at 2:53 pm on Mon, Oct 26, 2009.

    Jessica Posts: 23

    Just wondering when UF plans to bill Jansport for this?

     
  • publius posted at 5:06 pm on Tue, Oct 20, 2009.

    publius Posts: 1

    What was a backpack doing on a university campus? What's next? Legalizing pot?!

     
  • Danger posted at 11:16 am on Tue, Oct 20, 2009.

    Danger Posts: 2

    If I were a terrorist, I would want to find out how the UFPD responded to a situation like this. If I wanted to test out the response of the UFPD, maybe I'd put a harmless bag of sand in a high traffic area to determine response times and tactics. Maybe the UFPD over reacted, but would they be accussed of over reacting if it were a bomb? Sometimes I think it is useful to quit thinking about yourself for a few minutes and try to think about things in a broader perspective. What if it were your responsiblity to determine real threats from false threats? Would you risk hurting some college kids feelings and place their safety first? Just something to think about.

     
  • GDI_Titan posted at 3:03 am on Tue, Oct 20, 2009.

    GDI_Titan Posts: 23

    UPD does not gain revenue from parking decals or tickets. All that money goes to Transportation and Parking Services. Also, most parking enforcement is TAPS, not UPD. Just thought you'd like to know.

     
  • Figh'ThePower posted at 12:51 am on Tue, Oct 20, 2009.

    Figh'ThePower Posts: 8

    Mr. Guy Bradley, UFPD *IS* a private contractor who polices our campus. They're a glorified and certified contracting firm hired by University of Florida; they are independent from the University, and thus must make revenue on their own. There is no reason that's stopping them from making profits either -- i.e., hiking parking decal prices, hiking parking ticket prices. With all the Parking Enforcement hanging around the Reitz, I wouldn't be surprised if this was a deliberate conspiracy to force cars to park at the Orange lot across the street and ticket as many cars as they can for the day. Perhaps they are short on money; I definitely wouldn't be surprised if this surfaced one day, but they're pretty good about keeping their little secrets and officiating to themselves, like a secret fraternity overseeing Our University in the way that They see fit. They are scumbags.

    And I don't care for bagels. I deserve a warm Latino meal and so do my brethren!

     
  • GuyBradley posted at 12:14 am on Tue, Oct 20, 2009.

    GuyBradley Posts: 2

    There are both a Starbucks and an Einstein Bros. Bagels located in the Hub that are much closer than Library West.

     
  • GuyBradley posted at 12:04 am on Tue, Oct 20, 2009.

    GuyBradley Posts: 2

    ^^^^
    There is both a Starbucks and an Einstein Bros. in the Hub which is much closer to than Library West. Also, why would someone like you want to support Aramark in the first place? Would you rather a private contractor take over the duties of policing our campus? It's only in hindsight that anyone can feel outraged over the trouble caused by what turned out to be a bag of sand.

     
  • Figh'ThePower posted at 11:05 pm on Mon, Oct 19, 2009.

    Figh'ThePower Posts: 8

    I appreciate the matter that the Alligator can now reflect the news of today, so I can immediately find out when I come home why the f*** UFPD shut down an entire city for a bag of f******g sand. There are Latinos out there who are offended at the move, considering it restricted us from eating Pollo Tropical for an entire day. But us coffee drinkers were mildly bemused, and reluctant to walk over to the library for a cup. An entire race and a generation of amphetamine-hooked students were miserably interjected upon by the unabashed criminal-intent, paranoid schizophrenic musings of the incoherently hateful judgment of the Great Armed & Trained Officers, Riflemen, and Snipers of the Police Department regiment. A bag of f*****g sand? For eight f*****g hours? Thank you, Alligator for reporting the horrible and ineffectual display of our great university-run police department. The result of a capitalistic-driven police unit. Wake up, Sheeple!