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SLC police say suspicious item was not a threat after evacuating US Bank Tower

Sep 25, 2023, 10:22 AM | Updated: 8:22 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — After evacuating a building downtown and asking others to shelter in place in relation to a suspicious item found Monday morning, Salt Lake City Police determined the item was not a threat and dismissed responders from the area following an hours-long ordeal that caused disruptions all day.

Salt Lake City Police Department Sgt. Mark Wian explained that a community member called 911 Monday morning reporting the suspicious item just inside an alley near the sidewalk on 20 W. 200 South.

Salt Lake City resident Fred Rivers was riding by, when he said he saw police showing up next to Siegfried’s Delicatessen and the UPS Store.

“They had a triangle around this box. They had it taped off,” he explained. Rivers described the box as being made from cardboard, and of a small to medium size.

At first, the area was not completely closed. Rivers was able to pass by.

“I don’t want to touch it if it could be something dangerous,” he said. “So yeah, I just went by and… it didn’t strike me as anything out of the ordinary, but then again, I see stuff on the side of the road all the time.”

Police ended up closing the entire block, and Sgt. Wian said their Hazardous Devices Unit, the FBI, Utah Air National Guard, county bomb squad, Salt Lake City Fire Department, and Salt Lake County Health Department responded.

Authorities evacuated the US Bank Tower at 170 S. Main Street because Sgt. Wian said was out of an abundance of caution and to make sure community members were safe in case something happened. Nearby buildings were told to shelter in place. All of the businesses in 200 South had to close.

“We recognize that this is creating a very big impact downtown,” Sgt. Wian said. “You know, it’s a Monday. We have people coming to work, getting to and from places. But we appreciate the community’s recognition and being patient with us while we try to make sure that we’re reaching a safe resolution.”

Authorities closed the area to all foot and vehicle traffic, and the Utah Transit Authority set up a bus bridge during the closure.

An employee at the US Bank Tower who spoke to KSL said it was business as usual despite police blocking the building off.

“I feel like it’s good that they’re taking the necessary (precautions), Tyson Fowler said. “It’s a little strange that it (took) that long, from 8 a.m. when they started.”

Fowler said law enforcement regularly updated employees in the building. They were officially evacuated around noon. Fowler was forced to wait for police to give the all-clear in order for him to get his car.

Many people were also seen trying to walk through Main Street despite police tape blocking the area. 

Others were curious as to what was going on. Rich and Karen Hess are visiting from New York and arrived at their downtown hotel as police continued their investigation.

“I’m a fire chief in New Jersey so it’s fun to be on the civilian side of things for a change, to see what’s going on and watch the boys working,” Rich said. 

Salt Lake City Police and Fire respond to a suspicious package on 200 South between Main and South Temple on Monday September 23, 2023 (Scott Winterton/Deseret News)

Salt Lake City Police and Fire respond to a suspicious package on 200 South between Main and South Temple on Monday, September 23, 2023 (Scott Winterton/Deseret News)

At 2:30 p.m., Salt Lake City Police sent out an update that the item was determined not to be a threat.

Sgt. Wian said they figured out the suspicious item was an organic agricultural product, but could not specify what that meant.

However, he did say they figured out how it was left behind.

“We were able to get surveillance footage that shows that a person did leave this in a manner that was very suspicious,” he said. “And so, you know, that is part of that investigation is figuring out who that person is. So as that person is watching, please come forward. We want to talk to you.”

Police reopened the area, though most of the businesses that shut down along 200 South did not reopen for the day.

On Sunday, police investigated a reported bomb threat at King’s English Bookshop ahead of the store’s drag queen storytime event. Sgt. Wian said he didn’t have any information to be able to relate any connection, but that will be part of their ongoing investigation.

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SLC police say suspicious item was not a threat after evacuating US Bank Tower