Suspicious Package Sent to N.H. Democrats Deemed Harmless

  • A suspicious package delivered to the New Hampshire Democratic Party offices in Concord Monday evening caused the building to be evacuated. Concord Monitor — Caitlin Andrews

  • A Concord Police cruiser sits outside the New Hampshire Democratic Headquarters on North State Street on Tuesday, December 11, 2018. GEOFF FORESTERMonitor staff

Concord Monitor
Published: 12/11/2018 11:07:35 PM
Modified: 12/11/2018 11:07:41 PM

A suspicious envelope sent to the New Hampshire Democratic Party office on Monday turned out to be harmless, authorities determined.

Lt. Sean Ford of Concord police said employees were allowed back in the building on Tuesday afternoon after the building had been evacuated and the substance in the envelope was tested at state labs as part of an ongoing investigation into the Monday incident.

“At this time there is no public safety concern,” Ford said.

A handful of staff members, including N.H. Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, were working at the office when the envelope was delivered around 5 p.m. Ford said police were called after a staffer opened the envelope and some of the substance inside “may have gone airborne.” He said did not know what the substance looked like.

The staffer who interacted with the package had only minimal contact with the substance and was examined in an ambulance but cleared of any effects from exposure, according to Sarah Guggenheimer, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party.

The building and area around North State Street were closed on Monday night while local and state law emergency responders, including the state’s hazmat team, examined the scene.

Democratic officials moved a Monday-evening meeting to an off-site location shortly after the package was discovered.

Buckley praised local and state law enforcement for their quick response to the incident.

“While we are relieved the package did not pose a direct threat to our staff members, it served as an important reminder that the toxic and hateful words spewed in our current political environment have ramifications far beyond scoring political points,” he said in an emailed statement. “Working to support members of the Democratic Party should never come with a fear of attack, and steps must be made to make our political discourse more tolerant and civil.”

Guggenheimer said the staff was excited to be back to work.

“We’re grateful to authorities on how they handled the situation,” she said. “We really felt taken care of.”

While staffers were confused and worried during the incident, Guggenheimer said they kept in touch during the night and were comforted by everyone who reached out to make sure they were OK.

This isn’t the first time political parties’ headquarters in Concord have seen targeted acts.

New Hampshire Republican Party State Committee employees arrived one August morning last year, shortly after a contentious white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., to find the word “Nazis” spray-painted on the outside of their headquarters.

That incident was quickly condemned by political groups on both sides of the aisle, as was Monday’s incident. Republicans and Libertarians sent messages of support to New Hampshire Democrats through social media.

Ford said the investigation still is in its early stages, but police are prioritizing the incident, noting that the potential political angle complicates matters. Concord police are working with state and federal authorities, he said, adding that officials from the governor’s office, state Attorney General’s Office and the Merrimack County Attorney’s Office have been notified.

Ford said police double-checked the building on Tuesday to make sure no one had returned while it was closed and interviewed employees to ask if they had noticed anything suspicious in recent weeks.

“In that sort of environment, all sorts of wacky things come through,” he said.

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