White powder threat shuts Iowa capitol building

The Iowa capitol building was recently placed on lockdown after a legislator opened a threatening letter containing a white powder.

Approximately 300 lawmakers, staffers and observers were later released after a hazardous materials team tested the material and found it to be harmless. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen said that crews planned to test the material further to confirm their initial assessment, according to the Washington Post.

The letter was sent to Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad (D-Des Moines), who opened it on the House floor in the middle of a debate. Abdul-Samad called the language in the letter threatening, but declined to discuss its contents further because of the investigation, according to the Des Moines Register.

"I cannot talk about what was in the letter at this point, because it's turned over now to the State Patrol and also to [the state Division of Criminal Investigation], but it was a threatening letter," he said, the Des Moines Register reports. "This has now become a very serious legal matter."

State Patrol Captain Mark Logsdon declined to identify the substance, but said the envelope had been hand delivered to the capitol.

Rep. Abdul-Samad opened the letter at approximately 3:45p.m. and the entire building was closed almost an hour later, with many of its occupants sequestered on the House floor. The 71st Civil Service Team, an inter-agency cooperative responsible for dealing with biohazard agents, completed testing and gave the all-clear at approximately 8 p.m.

Lawmakers resumed considering legislation before the all-clear was given. They finished debate and held a final vote on a bill to bar cities from using traffic cameras.

"Continuation of this debate tonight is dumb, disrespectful and in poor taste," Rep. Nathan Willems (D-Lisbon) said, the Des Moines Register reports.