FBI: No bomb, no danger in downtown scare
Sep 14, 2012 (The Kansas City Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Kansas City police used a robot to search a man's car for a possible bomb this afternoon after he walked into the federal building downtown about noon and asked whether he was on the terrorist watch list.
Nearly five hours later, federal officials said there was no public threat and that no one inside the federal building was in harm's way. Bridget Patton, an FBI spokeswoman, said federal officials and police locked down the area and searched the car out of "an abundance of caution."
Sources told The Star the man created a disturbance inside the lobby by yelling something to the effect of: "Why am I on the terrorist watch list "
A police bomb sniffing dog "hit" on the man's car parked near the state office building, but the man told police he had only fertilizer in the trunk.
Authorities tentatively identified him as Wahed Moharam, known to many Kansas Citians as "helmet man," once a regular attendee at Chiefs' games. The Chiefs revoked his tickets out of safety concerns in 2003 because he was in the federal witness protection program after testifying for the government in the first World Trade Center bombing.
The Star called a phone number linked with Moharam's cleaning service, and a man who identified himself as Wahed answered around 2:15 p.m. He said he was talking with the FBI.
"Everything is OK," Wahed said. "I don't have to tell you exactly where I am. The FBI requests me to hang up the phone, but I can assure you I'm OK and they treat me good."
He added: "And everything mistake. Everything mistake. I didn't have any bad thing anyway. Everything is just -- thank you and God bless you and I'm OK."
His car was parked in a handicapped stall in the circle drive directly in front of the Fletcher Daniels state office building, which is across the street from the federal building. After the dog gave its handler a positive indication on the trunk, police considered the incident as a credible threat. Police also found a gun in the car.
It is not clear if Moharam's car contained chemicals or other materials related to his cleaning service. But Steve Scott, a police dog trainer based in Ohio, said a bomb-sniffing dog might react to cleaning materials.
"It's quite possible," he said. "Some of those chemicals can leave traces."
Police shut down streets in the area of 12th to 13th streets and Cherry to Charlotte streets. Police evacuated the state building and moved employees in the federal building to the north side of the building. The south side faces the state office building parking lot. The Jackson County jail, which sits directly next to the state office building's parking lot, was placed on lockdown, according to jailers.
Police used the robot to open the trunk so they wouldn't have to put officers at risk. The robot pulled out a green tarp, a spare tire and other items. It also opened a passenger door to allow officers to see inside the vehicle via a camera attached to the robot.
Mounted patrol officers were on scene to help with traffic control and help evacuated workers get to their vehicles, or to an assembly point at 14th and Oak streets if their vehicles were parked in lots that were shut down because they were too close to the state office building.
The scare was not similar to false bomb scares reported at two colleges today, the University of Texas and North Dakota State University in Fargo. Authorities did not find any explosives at either university.
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