Part of downtown New Albany was closed to traffic for about an hour Friday afternoon, because what was suspected to be part of an explosive device was found attached to a FedEx box.
According to New Albany Police Chief Chris Robertson, a Federal Express driver first sounded the alarm at about 11:30 a.m. He reported to his company that a “D-cell” battery was dangling by a wire from the opening in the drop box into which customers deposit their packages for shipment.
The box is located at the southwest corner of Bankhead and Court Streets, perhaps 15 feet from the Regions Bank building. The box is directly across Bankhead Street from BNA Bank and the New Albany Civic Center, and the Union County Courthouse is about 150 feet away on the east side of Court Street.
However, according to Robertson, Federal Express personnel did not notify law enforcement officials of what its driver had believed to be a possible bomb risk.
Around four hours later, at approximately 3:30 p.m., a citizen notified a New Albany police department patrolman of the suspicious item. The Regions Bank property is immediately adjacent to New Albany police headquarters. The police chief and several other NAPD officers were on the scene within minutes..
Robertson said he took cell phone photographs of the suspicious items and e-mailed the pictures to Jim Brinson, who is the federal law enforcement official in Jackson responsible for Homeland Security in Mississippi.
Brinson advised the chief to block traffic to keep pedestrians and motor vehicles away from the FedEx box. The federal official did not recommend evacuating any buildings. Brinson dispatched a bomb squad from the Tupelo Police Department, which arrived 15 or 20 minutes later. The bomb squad determined that there was no actual danger of an explosion. The battery and the wire from which it was hanging were actually a part of a timing device incorporated into the FedEx drop box.
There was no explanation early Friday evening about why Federal Express did not inform law enforcement officials of what its own employee had observed, nor was it known why or how part of the timing device ended up hanging outside the box.
Shortly before 5 p.m. the barricades were removed and traffic was allowed to return to normal.
Although facts about what produced the hazardous-looking situation were hard to come by, it apparently wasn’t an April Fool’s hoax, as was first suspected.
But, said Chief Robertson, “In this day and time we have to take every possible precaution if there is any suspicion whatever of a threat.”