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Chemical threat closes Herald Gazette; all clear sounded

The Herald Gazette office on Greenwood Street will reopen Friday after being shut down around 12:45 p.m. Thursday due to a chemical threat. Publisher Walter Geiger opened a letter filled with an unidentified white powder. The office was evacuated by the Barnesville Police Department and Lamar County Sheriff’s Office. Staff members present at the time were quarantined. Neighboring businesses were evacuated. Greenwood Street was cordoned off as authorities awaited the arrival of a decontamination unit. The FBI investigated the incident. UPDATE 5p.m.: A postal investigator tested the air outside the building. Three FBI agents, including the special agent in charge of the Macon office, awaited an FBI hazmat response team. UPDATE: The all clear was sounded at 6:15 p.m. when it was determined the substance in the letter was baking soda. Two possible suspects have surfaced. Responding agencies included Department of Natural Resources, Barnesville Police Department, Narcotics Task Force, Lamar sheriff’s office, Barnesville-Lamar County Fire Department, Macon-Bibb Fire Dept. Hazmat team, FBI, GBI, Postal Service investigative tech team. Eight newspaper staff members were quarantined in the parking lot from 12:45 p.m. until 6:15 p.m. Water and food were brought in. Sgt. Chris Webster of the LCSO remained on site with the staff to coordinate the response. Rachel McDaniel provided web coverage relayed to her by staff members via iPhone. ”It was a hectic day. We’re thankful everyone is safe. We will push to make sure the person or persons responsible for this are found and punished to the fullest extent of the law,” publisher Walter Geiger said.

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