By Philip Jankowski and Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
Two suspicious packages are being investigated by local police departments in unrelated incidents reported within 15 minutes of each other.
A suspicious package mailed to Killeen's utility department Monday forced authorities to quarantine 56 people for more than four hours.
A pair of chemical tests determined the package - a foul-smelling envelope - was no danger to employees and customers of the Killeen Utility Collections Office, located at 210 W. Avenue C.
A similar suspicious package was delivered to the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce Monday. It was also described as a foul-smelling envelope.
"It's similar to it," Killeen Police Department spokeswoman Carroll Smith said of the package in Copperas Cove. "Can I say it's connected? No."
Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce President Marty Smith said one of the chamber employees was opening the mail when she came across a bubble-wrapped envelope with no return address.
"A little piece of gauze came out and it started to smell, so we just left and called the fire department and they called Fort Hood Hazmat," she said.
Copperas Cove police and fire departments were dispatched to the chamber at 11:08 a.m. Monday.
Employees were allowed to re-enter the building at 2:10 p.m.
Killeen police received a report of the suspicious package just before 11 a.m. An employee told authorities the envelope had no return address and had a foul smell emanating from inside, according to a press release from KPD.
Killeen's Regional Hazardous Materials Team arrived on the scene and immediately began testing the envelope.
The initial test showed that the chemical inside the envelope was of no danger to employees and customers inside the building.
The quarantine remained for several more hours as members of the Temple Regional Hazmat Team retested the envelope with a chemical-analyzing machine.
After the results were confirmed, the police lifted the quarantine about 3:30 p.m.
One utility billing employee said officials walking through the office in air-tight yellow hazmat suits made the day quite eerie.
"It was like Darth Vader," the employee said, mimicking heavy breathing noises.
One customer stuck in the utility department for more than four hours said the whole incident irked her. Amy Johnson arrived at the utility billing office around 11 a.m. to get a water bill transferred. Johnson had hoped to be in and out of the office quickly.
It did not bother her to have to sit through the whole process. What made her angry was when a police officer inside the building when the quarantine was ordered was allowed to leave the office.
"That defeats the whole purpose of a quarantine," she said. "I don't mind sitting through it all, but when I saw that, it made me angry."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation will investigate the incident.
The contents of the Copperas Cove package were taken to the police department and the incident is still being investigated, said CCPD spokesman Sgt. Kevin Keller.
Keller would not comment on the contents of that package.
Contact Philip Jankowski at email@example.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.