By David Helms
Pontotoc County Emergency Management officials announced at 4:50 p.m. this afternoon that a suspicious white powder inside a letter to a Pontotoc business was deemed not to be harmful.
“The stuff inside the letter was a mixture of different chemical powders but it contained nothing harmful,” said Rickey Jaggers, Pontotoc County Emergency Management Director.
The incident unfolded around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday when a Pontotoc business owner notified the Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Department he had opened a suspicious letter and began coughing from a powder substance inside the letter.
Two Pontotoc deputies responded to Pool Specialist located at 243A West Oxford Street in Pontotoc and took possession of the letter from business owner Frank Wilson.
Pontotoc Police, Emergency Management, fire department and ambulance personnel responded to the scene and a hazardous materials regional response team from Tupelo Fire Department was summoned in an effort to identify the powdered substance.
The hazardous material team helped decontaminate those inside the business and isolated the letter for transportation to the state crime lab.
“But when the U.S. Postal Inspector (from Memphis) got here, he had the equipment to test the substance and determine it was not poisonous,” said Randy Tutor, Pontotoc Police investigator.
Business owner Frank Wilson was transported by ambulance to the hospital for precautionary examination. Also decontaminated inside the store were deputies Erick Pettit and Chance Austin and Pontotoc Progress Advertising Consultant Angie Quarles who was at the business making a sales call when officers arrived.
Officials with the FBI and Homeland Security have also been contacted, said Pontotoc Police Chief Larry Poole. Law enforcement officials said Wilson told them the letter inside the envelope was unsigned but contained a one page (front and back) typed letter attacking and accusing the Pontotoc Progress, Daily Journal, and numerous area churches of contributing to the trafficking of young girls.
As word spread this afternoon about the incident, law enforcement officials began receiving a multitude of calls about receiving similar letters in the mail.
“If they get a suspicious letter, don’t open it, just call 911 and an officer will come by as soon as possible and pick up the letter,” said Chief Poole. Law enforcement officials said they have a person of interest they want to question in connection with the powder incident and letters.