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Suspicious Package at SMPD headquarters

A hazardous materials crew was called to Santa Maria Police headquarters Monday after a suspicious package and envelope containing an unknown "white powder" were brought into the department's station on Betteravia Road.

Around 4:30 p.m., Arroyo Grande resident Joseph Skoda arrived at the Santa Maria Police station carrying a business-size white envelope with a lump of white powder, which had a return address of Santa Maria. Skoda got in his car and took the envelope -- which he had picked up earlier in the day from his post office box in Pismo Beach — to the Santa Maria Police station.

Skoda said his initial reaction when he saw the powder was, “Who’s mad at me?”  

Santa Maria Police, Fire, Santa Barbara County Fire and FBI officials worked to determine what substance the powder was and who might have sent it. For around two hours, the entrance to the Santa Maria Police station was cordoned off with yellow tape.

After the scene was cleared, Santa Maria's Lt. Terry Flaa said investigators were unable to say what the powder was but determined the envelope was a non-credible threat. Flaa said a national hazardous materials company would be hired to dispose of the envelope.  

Flaa said because of national incidents involving suspicious packages, the police wanted to make sure they took such a situation seriously. “That’s exactly what they did,” Flaa said, adding that the police lobby was closed until it was determined the substance was not a safety concern.

Flaa said in the future, police would prefer that a recipient of a suspicious package call and report it to police rather than bring anything to the police station.

“He did what he thought was right, and packaged it into a plastic baggie and then put it in his car and drove from out of town to Santa Maria and brought it to the department,” Flaa said. “We do not recommend handling it in that manner. We recommend that you put the item down, back away from it, get other people away from it and call 911 immediately, leaving it right where it is.”

Flaa said Pismo Beach Police will take over the investigation since Skoda's post office box -- where the envelope was received -- is located in Pismo Beach. 


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Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga