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Suspicious letter prompts hazmat incident at Santa Maria Police Station

Crime scene tape still flutters in the wind hours after Santa Maria Police dealt with what they call a rarity, even for them.

While police say normal operations continued, a suspicious letter led to a hazardous materials response at the Santa Maria Police Station, shutting down the lobby and parking lot for well over two hours.

Police say they did not have to evacuate the station and the incident was “very contained.”

“Who is mad at me, who did I piss off,” said Joseph Skoda.

That was Skoda’s initial reaction after getting more than he bargained for at his Pismo Beach P.O. Box.

“I had a letter mailed to me with a white substance inside. Didn’t know the address it came from, the address it came from was a Santa Maria address and it came to my P.O. Box and I didn’t know what was in it,” said Skoda.

Police say Skoda put the envelope with a “lump of powder” in a plastic bag and drove it to the Santa Maria Police Department and brought it into their lobby. The incident unfolded just before 4:00 p.m. and the scene wasn’t clear until almost 6:30 p.m.

“I brought it here because it’s the police department. I didn’t know where else to bring it,” said Skoda.

The Arroyo Grande man says he thought someone on staff would be able to test it but police wish he would have handled things differently.

“In the event that somebody does come across a suspicious package containing powder or any other type of substance, we recommend that you immediately put the item down, back away from it, get other people away from it and call 9-1-1 immediately leaving it right where it is,” said Lt. Terry Flaa, Santa Maria Police Department.

Officers still don’t know the exact conditions of the suspicious package.

“We’ve determined that this is a non-credible threat, the item is going to be disposed of,” said Lt. Flaa.

SMPD is now dealing with a hazardous waste disposal company to retrieve the contents in question and investigators are trying to establish if the people who live at the return address listed actually sent the letter.

There wasn’t a name included in the return address.

“Bottom line is our officers have a job to do and they handled it very well this evening because of stuff going on nationally of course situations like this you want to take situations like this very seriously and that’s exactly what we did,” said Lt. Flaa.

While Skoda says he wasn’t scared until he saw the quarantine protocols unfold, he applauds the police’s efforts. “Be careful out there, it’s a dangerous world we live in,” he said.

Lt. Flaa says an outside agency is investigating.

Skoda says he hopes to find out who sent him the letter someday, noting that it may have been a prank.

The Santa Maria Police Department was evacuated Monday afternoon after someone reportedly brought in a package with an unknown, white-powdery substance.

The incident began shortly after 4 p.m. Investigators say the suspicious package originated in Santa Maria but was sent to a man in Arroyo Grande.

That man then brought the suspicious package to the Santa Maria Police Department.

A hazmat team and the FBI are assisting with the investigation, according to KCOY 12 reporter Kacey Drescher who was actually at the police department on an unrelated story when the incident broke out.

“Officers tell me that when you are dealing with a suspicious parcel, it’s best to leave everything as is and call the authorities. Don’t move anything, don’t transport anything, leave it there and then they will come to you,” said Kacey.

The scene was cleared by police shortly after 6 p.m.

No further details were immediately known.

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