FBI investigating anthrax hoax in Massachusetts

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating a May 3 white powder incident that shut down the Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield, Massachusetts, for five hours.

Approximately 150 people were evacuated from the courthouse after a suspicious letter arrived containing a white powder. Tests later showed the powder to be harmless, according to GazzetteNet.com.

Greenfield Fire Chief Michael Winn told GazzetteNet.com that similar letters were delivered to the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, Sen. Scott Brown’s office and the JFK federal building in Boston. Winn said it was not known whether the incidents were related.

Greenfield Mayor William Martin told GazzetteNet.com that it was not clear if the letters were sent in response to the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. Special Forces operatives. Martin said that any link to the operation would be conjecture at this point, but that the timing of the letters is part of the investigation.

It is not yet known why these buildings and offices were chosen. The text of the letter has not been released, but Winn said it contained a “concerning message” along with the unknown substance.

Greenfield Deputy Fire Chief Robert Strahan told GazzetteNet.com that none of those inside the building exhibited any signs of illness after the letter was opened. The courthouse was fully evacuated at 2 p.m. to allow the state’s hazardous chemicals unit collect samples for testing. The courthouse was opened for regular business the next day.