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UWS dorm, Superior High School evacuated after suspicious package found

A suspicious package prompted the evacuation of Superior High School and a dormitory at the University of Wisconsin-Superior for several hours Wednesday.

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Staff and students wait outside Superior High School shortly after 2 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon after a suspicious package was found near Ross Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus. Students and staff at SHS were allowed to leave. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
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A suspicious package prompted the evacuation of Superior High School and a dormitory at the University of Wisconsin-Superior for several hours Wednesday.

In the end, authorities determined that the newspaper-wrapped package contained only spoiled meat.

The package was found at about 12:30 p.m. atop a sewer cover next to a parking lot at Ross-Hawkes Hall, Superior police reported. The dorm - located just north of Wessman Arena - and nearby Superior High School were evacuated as a precaution, and several streets blocked off.

The Marathon-Oneida County Bomb Squad traveled from Wausau, 230 miles away, to handle the package. The squad arrived on scene at about 6:30 p.m. and determined it was not an explosive device.

Meanwhile, Superior police reported, “UW-Superior officials were able to go through surveillance camera footage of the area and identify the student who set down the wrapped package in that particular location. The student was located and interviewed. The wrapped package turned out to be meat that had been left in a car and started to spoil over the past few hot days.”

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The road closures and evacuations were lifted at 8:15 p.m., police said.

UWS Director of Communications and Government Affairs Daniel Fanning said that “all things considered, it went as smoothly as could be expected,” and he praised campus public safety, Superior police and fire, Duluth police, the FBI, the bomb squad and the Superior School District for their cooperation and response.

UWS students who live at Ross-Hawkes mostly took the situation in stride, he said, with many waiting at Yellowjacket Union until getting the all-clear.

“The students were very cooperative,” Fanning said. “They know how seriously we take campus safety.”

Other campus buildings and activities were not affected.

The Superior School District sent out a notice to parents just before 2 p.m. that the high school was being evacuated because of the situation. Students were moved to Superior Middle School until the end of the day, the district reported.

Authorities had said Wednesday afternoon that they were not aware of any specific threats made against any UWS students or buildings.

 

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Long wait

The incident was another case of Twin Ports law enforcement agencies having to wait for hours for the services of a bomb squad, when there's a highly trained bomb squad with the Minnesota National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing, stationed at the Duluth International Airport.

The 148th Fighter Wing's Explosive Ordinance Disposal, or EOD, Unit had long provided bomb disposal service to Northland law enforcement agencies, but the service was abruptly ended a few years ago with a policy change from National Guard leadership.

Now, authorities in Northeastern Minnesota call the Crow Wing County Bomb Squad, 115 miles from Duluth. Superior uses the Marathon-Oneida County Bomb Squad.

The Duluth City Council and St. Louis County Board earlier this year called on Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to order the Minnesota National Guard to make the 148th EOD Unit available for civilian threats.

But state and military officials told the News Tribune that the decision is not the governor's to make, adding that the unit could be activated for specific emergencies where loss of life could be imminent - but not for general availability for civilian police calls.

Military officials said federal regulations now prohibit the 148th team from responding directly to local law enforcement events.

UWS’ Fanning said Wednesday night that the Marathon-Oneida County Bomb Squad was “phenomenal to work with.”

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“That said, it’s unfortunate that the Twin Ports seem to be vulnerable” because of the long wait for a bomb squad to respond to incidents, he said.

Related Topics: SUPERIORPOLICE
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