Bomb scare hits near East

Several blocks off East Campus were evacuated Wednesday afternoon when a local property owner reported a suspicious package outside a building at 731 Broad St. near Markham Avenue.

The report was filed at about 2 p.m., said Cpl. David Addison of the Durham Police Department. The package was removed to a Durham County Sheriff's Department truck at about 3:45 p.m., and the van left the scene, escorted by police and fire vehicles, at about 4 p.m.

Addison said officials did not know whether the package was an explosive device, but he said it would be destroyed. Neither DPD nor the sheriff's department had further information as of Wednesday night.

"Apparently some packages were left by the previous owner, and while they were going through them, the new owner found something suspicious," said Capt. Sara-Jane Raines, executive officer with Duke University Police Department.

Raines said there was no real concern for the safety of East Campus, but University-employed AlliedBarton Security Service officers helped to keep pedestrians out of the area and DUPD officers blocked traffic. Robert Dean, director of DUPD, was also on scene.

Broad and Markham were both closed for several blocks, the scene was blocked by yellow tape and dozens of law enforcement vehicles filled the parking lot of the Dollar General at 800 Broad St.

"We wanted to make sure that we have the area evacuated so that if something happens, the effect will be minimal," Addison said.

In addition to DPD and DUPD, the Durham Fire Department and Durham County Sheriff's Department all had personnel on scene, including DPD's Biological Chemical Emergency Response Team and a mobile police substation.

The building houses a law office, a travel agency and several other businesses.

Some neighborhood residents milled around outside the blocked-off area, including one Clarendon Street resident, who asked to be identified only as Mrs. Williams.

"I sent my daughter down to the dollar store and I didn't know if something had happened," she said. "My heart was racing, but I still don't know if she turned around or what."

While events unfolded on Broad Street, an apparently unrelated bomb threat was called in at 2:16 p.m. to the Hillcrest Convalescent Center at 1417 W. Pettigrew St., Addison said.

Hillcrest Administrator Ted Smith said the facility contacted police, who advised an evacuation and began a search. Only about 20 of the home's approximately 110 residents had been removed when police gave the go-ahead to reoccupy between 3:30 and 4 p.m., Smith said.

"We prepare for lots of different emergency procedures," he said. "We've never had to utilize this one, but it couldn't have gone any smoother. We had lots of neighbors who pitched in to help."


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