Suspicious package at lawyer's office harmless

April 1, 2009 10:24:38 AM PDT
A suspicious package that was left at the law office of Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris Tuesday turned out to be harmless, but it caused five floors of the 12-story office building to be evacuated, Burris said.

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Burris said a man left the package at his office at 7677 Oakport St. around 10:15 a.m. Tuesday. The package contained what appeared to be telephone wires wrapped in a bunch of newspapers.

Burris, who wasn't in his office when the man dropped off the package, said the package looked scary and "frightened everyone in his office."

Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said police officers and the Alameda County Sheriff's bomb squad responded to the scene.

The upper five floors, including the ninth floor offices of the Oakland Tribune, were evacuated and people weren't allowed back inside until nearly 3 p.m., Burris said.

"We've pretty much lost a day of work," Burris said.

The building is located next to Interstate Highway 880 between the 66th Avenue and Hegenberger Road exits, across the freeway from the Oakland Coliseum.

Burris said the man who left the package appeared to be "emotionally impaired" and police told him that the man has made terrorist threats to other people in the past.

He said the man told his staff after leaving the package that he was being followed and traced.

Thomason confirmed that Oakland police have had contact with the man in the past because he has made threats to other people. He also confirmed that the man appears to be mentally unstable.

Thomason said police are trying to track the man down so they can talk to him about his actions Tuesday.

Burris is often in the news because he frequently files lawsuits against police agencies for alleged wrongdoing, including cases in which police officers shoot and kill suspects.

He recently filed a $50 million lawsuit against BART on behalf of Oscar Grant, an unarmed passenger who was shot and killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale station in Oakland early on New Year's Day.

Burris said he and his staff often get phone calls from people "who say bad things" because of the lawsuits he has filed against police departments and officers.

"It comes with the territory," Burris said.

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