FBI: 'Potential presence of ricin' found in Minneapolis apartment
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minneapolis Division of the FBI is investigating the material found Tuesday in an apartment building near the University of Minnesota. Officials say the test results "indicated the presumptive potential presence of ricin."
Around 4 p.m. Tuesday, police and fire officials learned a person who had been transported to the hospital reported a possible hazardous substance inside their apartment. Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said it was an "unconfirmed report of ricin."
Crews responded to the apartment complex at 515 14th Avenue Southeast and evacuated the building. They located the substance inside the apartment and transported it to the Minnesota Health Laboratory for testing. Police said possible contamination was likely limited to the one apartment.
According to the FBI, a preliminary test of some of the material found in the apartment was conducted, and the results of that test indicated "the presumptive potential presence of ricin."
Ricin is a poisonous biological toxin found naturally in castor beans. If castor beans are chewed or swallowed, the released ricin can cause injury. According to officials, it is considered a potential Weapon of Mass Destruction. However, in this incident, officials do not believe the substance was being used for criminal activity.
The FBI is investigating how the female came into contact with the potentially dangerous material. An FBI spokesperson told FOX 9 that the bureau does not believe the person involved had any malicious intent.
"Early indications from the ongoing investigation reveal the female likely did not come into contact with the material in a random fashion; meaning she may have been intentionally handling the material," officials said in a release.
"How it came to be that she became in the presence of the material is the question of the day and we don't have an answer for that yet," said Kevin Smith, of the FBI.
The FBI's Hazardous Evidence Recovery Team is working with the 55th Civil Support Team from the Minnesota National Guard in processing the scene. The HERT is specially trained in recovering evidence from potentially hazardous scenes.
Once collected and secured, the evidence will be delivered to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia for testing and positive identification.
Students were allowed back into the building Tuesday night.
"If anyone thought there was a danger to anyone near here, they wouldn't be here. The kids who live in that apartment building wouldn't be allowed in there," Smith added.