Photo: Joey Gale
A suspicious white powder found in the outgoing mail of Herriott Hall on Tuesday was nothing more than cornstarch.
A first-year student came forward during the incident to admit that he was the one who had put the envelope in the mail. He told officials that he was sending it as a prank to his friend at another college. The student’s name has not been released, but he will have to pay for the deployment of the Des Moines Fire Department’s hazardous materials team.
At 9:26 a.m., the front desk receptionist at Herriott called Drake Security saying a white powder had fallen out of a piece of outgoing mail.
Security Supervisor Mark Risvold and Security Specialist Dustin Runge responded to the call shortly thereafter.
“We responded, (and) we did take a quick look at it (the envelope),” Risvold said. “We’re not trained experts, so we didn’t know what the substance was, and there was not a return address on the envelope.”
He said the powder and the lack of a return address prompted him to call the police department.
At that time, he also made the decision to pull the fire alarm to evacuate the building. Risvold said the decision to pull the fire alarm was made because it was the easiest way to evacuate the building.
Within five to 10 minutes, Risvold said the fire department was on its way.
The hazardous materials unit was deployed to the residence hall at 9:44 a.m.
Shortly after 10 a.m., the team went in to determine what the powder was.
The desk worker, Mindy Davis, was required to stand away from everyone else just in case there had been a reaction to the white powder.
The student’s admission of responsibility saved “hours” of time, Risvold said.
“Because it was an envelope that had not been mailed out yet, by law they (police officials) have to get a warrant to get in there and open it,” he said.
Because security is not formally trained in hazardous materials besides just quick classes, Risvold said that he believes that his crew handled the situation the best they could.
“It’s not our job to take a chance with students,” he said.
The case has been handed over to the U.S. Postal Service for investigation. No one has been arrested, and no charges have been filled. At the time of publication, the investigator for this case could not be reached for comment.
Monday night chase ends on Drake’s Campus
The incident at Herriott Hall came just one day after a car chase damaged cars on Drake’s campus and turned into a foot chase in Drake Stadium.
Des Moines Police began chasing a car that was being operated without permission. Police Officer Brady Carney followed the car into the Drake neighborhood. The Ford Expedition eventually hit a light pole and six parked cars near 27th and Clark Streets near the Bell Center. The driver of the car fled, jumped two chain-link fences and entered Drake stadium. He left behind two female passengers, according to the police report. The police report said that one passenger stated that she did not know the driver, but said his name was “Robert.”
Drake Security saw the suspect running in the stadium and made contact with Des Moines Police who were already on scene.
The suspect was taken into custody near the press box of the stadium.
Police arrested Michael Speech, 18. He faces numerous charges including eluding police and theft.
Passenger Kristal Bess, 18, was charged with interference.