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Briefcase causes city hall to be cleared

Tarpon officials call for an evacuation after an attorney's lost briefcase is noticed. Early voting was interrupted.

By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published October 20, 2004

TARPON SPRINGS - Police evacuated City Hall on Tuesday morning after finding an unattended briefcase in the front parking lot.

About 40 city employees, early voting supervisors and nearby residents were asked to move several blocks down the street for about 30 minutes.

Police arrived about 7:30 a.m. and tried to track down the briefcase's owner. They evacuated City Hall, an early voting site, the public works building across the street and residential areas on Pine Street, Grosse Avenue and Ring Avenue.

Three members of the Tampa Bay Regional Bomb Squad responded to the scene.

The briefcase belonged to assistant city attorney Shauna Morris, who accidentally left it in the parking lot after a planning and zoning meeting Monday night. "I'm really sorry to have caused all this trouble," she said later.

Police Detective Scott Brockew, a bomb squad technician, opened the briefcase at 8:27 a.m. after officials learned it had been left behind Monday night. He found papers inside.

"You'd rather err on the side of caution. It was an inconvenience for some people for a short period of time," police Sgt. Jeffrey Young said. "It definitely was something we had to do."

The evacuation order came a few minutes after early-voting polls opened at 8 a.m., said Linda Bronson, a county elections site manager. One person had just finished his paperwork and was getting ready to vote.

"I wasn't worried after I made sure there would be someone to watch the voting machines," she said.

Rose Indianos tried to drive to City Hall to vote about 8 a.m. Tuesday, but couldn't make it.

"There were police all over the place," she said. "Everywhere we went the streets were blocked off."

Indianos planned to try again today.

"I'm almost afraid to go again," she said. "Who knows what will happen?"

[Last modified October 20, 2004, 00:17:24]


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