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Capitol Hill ricin threat still an active investigation
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Capitol Hill ricin threat still an active investigation

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Six months have passed since the January 6 ricin scare on Capitol Hill. The threats, delivered in letters to 11 bars, warned that patrons would be poisoned. The individual(s) responsible said they had approximately 67 grams of ricin and would indiscriminately target at least five clients and 'expect them to die painfully while in the hospital.'

Ricin is a poison that is extracted from the castor bean. It can be either a white powder or a liquid in crystalline form. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) gives a possible minimum figure of 500 micrograms, equal to half a grain of sand, for a lethal dose of ricin in humans if exposure is from injection or inhalation.

No one took the threats lightly. Not the police, not the LGBT community, not the bar owners. The FBI and federal postal inspectors were called in. The mayor issued a statement. It was all anyone could talk about. Who could it be? When will they strike?

Being the resilient and proud community that it is, locals organized a Gay Pub Crawl in which they packed the Capitol Hill bars full of people in a show of solidarity. Bar owners posted signs warning patrons not to leave their drinks unattended, and the party raged on in spite of the danger.

Luckily, nothing happened and no one was hurt. There's just one problem: no one ever got caught.

"The case is still very much actively investigated, detectives are still working on it even though there have not been any reoccurrences of the threat," Seattle Police Department media relations sergeant Sean Whitcomb told SGN.

Whitcomb said the SPD coordinated with the FBI early in the investigation, but the police department is ultimately responsible for it. He said nothing new could be disclosed to the media because it is still an ongoing investigation in the violent crimes section.

So where does the investigation stand?

When asked about whether or not the SPD is taking this seriously or how they are handling the case, Whitcomb said they are still treating this as a real threat. He said if the person or persons responsible for this were "only playing a joke," the SPD wouldn't see it as such.

"This is being looked at as a serious threat," he said, "If the investigation yields an arrest and we find that the people did not have the ability to carry out the threat, we still would never look at it as a joke - neither should the people who were threatened."

Whitcomb says there are no new leads in the case.

"We are still seeking information from the community," he told SGN. "There is a cash reward up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest."

Whitcomb said there are mechanisms in place for people to make anonymous reports to Crime Stoppers Peugeot Sound.

"What Crime Stoppers do is they get the information, then scrub all the contact information, and pass on the info they have about the case to us," Whitcomb said. "We follow up on any information they pass to us."

If you have information that might aid the police in the investigation and want to contact the SPD directly, call the department's non-emergency number, (206) 625-5011. Citizens with information who wish to remain anonymous may contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

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