Wichita Firefighters Respond to Poison Letter at Sedgwick County Courthouse

The substance is highly toxic and potentially fatal if enough of the substance is inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin.
Firefighters responded to the Sedgwick County Courthouse on Monday after a powdery white substance, determined to be diaminotoluene, was found on an envelope while mail was being processed. (KSN)

Letter with highly toxic substance mailed to county
finance department

Chance Swaim, The Wichita Eagle

(MCT)

Mar. 22–The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating a potential biological attack aimed at Sedgwick County government, county officials said Monday.

At least two Sedgwick County employees were exposed to a dangerous chemical substance sent through the mail Monday afternoon and eight employees were decontaminated as a precaution. One employee was sent to an area hospital.

The Sedgwick County Finance Department received a certified letter from a group claiming to be part of a Moorish nationalist group on Monday afternoon. The origin of the letter is under investigation, Sedgwick County Manager Tom Stolz said.

Inside the envelope was a three-page document coated with an unknown white powder. Two employees handled the letter and began to experience symptoms, Stolz said.

One employee began coughing and the other had a skin irritation. They received medical evaluations and appeared to be “OK,” Stolz said. The employees were being held Monday afternoon for observation and decontamination to make sure their conditions didn’t worsen. One of the employees was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

Three additional finance employees, two courthouse police officers and two sheriff’s deputies were also decontaminated as a precaution, according to a news release from the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department.

The Wichita Fire Department shut down ventilation on the 8th Floor of the Sedgwick County Courthouse.

Investigators have determined the substance was diaminotoluene, Stolz said.

That substance is used in dye making. It is highly toxic and potentially fatal if enough of the substance is inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Lacey Cruse said the apparent attack “definitely rattles the nerves.”

“Decisions made by county officials, myself included, are at times gut wrenching,” she said in a written statement Monday afternoon. “I get it that some people are not happy with policy decisions but there is never a reason to attack public officials. We are doing the best we can knowing that all decisions made and votes cast will affect our families too. This is scary stuff and completely uncalled for.”

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