Possible Motive Probed for “Flare-Up” Packages

One of two suspicious packages that "flared up" Thursday when opened at two Maryland state government buildings included a note that referred to highway signs encouraging people to report suspicious activity, sources told NBC Washington's Darcy Spencer.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the package addressed to Gov. Martin O'Malley that was opened at the Jeffrey Building in downtown Annapolis included a note that read: "Report suspicious activity. Total [expletive]. You have created your own self-fulfilling prophecy."

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O'Malley later speculated that the note referred to the overhead highway signs calling for motorists to alert authorities with terrorism tips.

"So somebody doesn't like seeing those signs," he said.

"We're just now trying to figure out is it someone with a disdain for the state of Maryland, for our highway system, for the way our Department of Transportation functions, our governor?" Maryland State Police Col. Terrence Sheridan said. "Just what is it?"

The suspicious packages prompted the evacuation of approximately 300 state employees Thursday, and two other suspicious packages were discovered in the distress, though one was found to be a toner cartridge; the other laptop batteries, the Associated Press reported.

The first suspicious packages were discovered in Anne Arundel County at the Jeffrey Building on Francis Street in Annapolis and the Harry Hughes Department of Transportation Building in Hanover.

A public information officer in Annapolis said a device went off at about 12:25 p.m. when someone opened a package in the Jeffrey Building, where mail for Gov. Martin O'Malley's office is routinely checked. The package was described as being the size of a book and was addressed to O’Malley. It also had holiday postage stamps on it.

Sources said that when the package was opened in the government mailroom it "flared up."

Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said the package was opened and "there was an issuance of smoke and a smell." No explosives have been found, Shipley said. He said the person who opened the package suffered "singed fingers" but refused further medical treatment.

Shipley said there was no damage to property in the room. Employees re-entered the building at approximately 2:30 p.m. after the building was declared safe.

The same thing happened at about 12:45 p.m. when a package addressed to Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley -- and including an undisclosed return address -- was opened in the Hughes building. The incident occurred on the fourth floor of the Maryland Department of Transportation headquarters.

Shipley said that in this incident, the person who opened the package dropped it as smoke came out. Shipley said there was a "sulfur-type smell." The person who opened that package and three people who were nearby were taken to a hospital as a precaution.

Sources said the devices were designed to ignite rather than explode. The devices are similar to devices sent out five or six years ago to governors around the country. They were inside a small shipping box.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency said one of the packages looked like a book-mailer.

Each package had a return address. One led to a department store parking lot in northwest Washington.

The devices are at the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va.

"Both of these devices were relatively intact, so it does give us an opportunity to examine them in great detail," Maryland Fire Marshal Bill Barnard said.

Investigators hope to retrieve DNA, fingerprints and anything else that will ultimately lead to the culprit.

State government officials shut down all mail operations at all state agencies. Local governments and colleges were notified.

A package with a similar description ignited at a northeast D.C. postal facility Friday afternoon, and authorities believe it is related to Thursday's incidents.

An FBI spokesman said a package investigated late Thursday afternoon at a state office building in Baltimore was a box of laptop computer batteries. Another package -- discovered at about 3:30 p.m. at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse in downtown Baltimore -- also was investigated, Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. It turned out to be an ink cartridge.

A suspicious package at Dulles International Airport in Virginia caused the closure of the United ticket counter and four baggage carousels for more than two hours before it was determined to be harmless.

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