Jessica Cejnar / Friday, July 26 @ 5:39 p.m. / Prison

Substance Sent to Pelican Bay State Prison Tests Positive For Ricin, Results Are Preliminary


Pelican Bay Prison and the chemical structure of ricin | Wikimedia Commons

A suspicious substance sent to Pelican Bay State Prison earlier this week has tested positive for ricin based on a “preliminary presumptive test,” authorities with the Del Norte County Office of Emergency Services, Sheriff's Office and Public Health Branch said Friday.

The material, discovered in an envelope mailed to the prison’s administration building on Tuesday, was sent to a laboratory for further analysis, according to a joint press release from the Del Norte Office of Emergency Services, Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office and Del Norte County Public Health Branch.

Subsequent tests are currently underway, according to the press release.

The substance was found during the prison’s mail screening process and prompted an immediate quarantine of 116 employees in the administration building, the warehouse and mailroom. Three individuals were hospitalized for evaluation, but have since been examined and released, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton said in an email Friday.

Local and state public health officials have also notified those who may have had direct exposure and are working to ensure there is no further contamination or danger to the public, Thornton said.

The county office of emergency services was activated to support medical issues in the area connected with the incident, Thornton said. Prison operations and security has not been affected by the investigation, she said.

A Hazmat team from Humboldt County visited Pelican Bay to conduct preliminary tests of the substance on Tuesday, Thornton told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Wednesday. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also involved in the investigation.

In a statement to the Lost Coast Outpost on Friday, a spokesperson with the FBI stated they were working with local law enforcement to fully identify the substance which has been contained. There is no known threat to public safety at this time, according to the FBI.

“We will share additional public safety information as it becomes available,” the FBI stated.

What follow is a joint press release from Del Norte County Office of Emergency Services, Del Norte County Sheriff's Office, and Del Norte County Public Health:

On Tuesday, July 23, suspicious envelopes were received at Pelican Bay State Prison in Del Norte County. During the prison’s mail screening process, these envelopes were found to contain an unknown substance. The area of the prison where the suspicious envelopes were opened was immediately quarantined and a coordinated investigation with local, state and federal law enforcement as well as public health officials was initiated.

The material found in the envelope was sent to an accredited laboratory for further analysis. The preliminary presumptive test was positive for ricin. Subsequent tests are currently underway.

Out of an abundance of caution, three individuals were initially admitted to hospital for medical evaluation. All were closely examined and have since been released. Local and state public health officials have also notified all individuals who may have had direct exposure and are working to ensure that there is no further contamination or danger to the public at large.

The Del Norte County Office of Emergency Services has been activated to support medical health issues in the area. Correctional operations and security at Pelican Bay have not been impacted by the investigation.


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