Texas man questioned in letters sent to Obama, NYC Mayor Bloomberg

Ricin letters

Credit: Getty Images

An official walks past a hazardous materials response team truck outside a mail sorting facility on April 16, 2013 in Hyattsville, Maryland after an envelope addressed to U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) tested positive for ricin. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Associated Press

Posted on May 31, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Updated Monday, Dec 2 at 4:20 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — FBI agents are questioning a Texas man in connection with three letters sent to President Barack Obama, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his gun-control advocacy group, the two to Bloomberg containing the poison ricin, according to a law-enforcement source.

The source said the man was neither arrested nor charged.

All three letters were postmarked June 20 in Shreveport, La., and had similar wording, federal officials said.

The FBI had been operating under the theory that all three letters were sent by the same person, one federal law enforcement source told Newsday.

The source characterized the man being questioned in Texas as a “person of interest,” who has served in the U.S. military. He now is a civilian worker for the Defense Department and has family and friends in Shreveport. He had not been identified as a suspect by late Thursday.

The source said one section of all three letters reads: “You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone who wants to come to my house will get shot in the face. The right to bear arms is my constitutional God given right and I will exercise that right till the day I die.”

Another part reads: “What’s in this letter is nothing compared to what I’ve got planned for you,” the source said.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the letters to Bloomberg and his group Mayors Against Illegal Guns both began with the salutation: “You.”

Authorities have analyzed the two Bloomberg letters for fingerprints but have not found usable prints, the federal source said. All three letters are being or will be analyzed for DNA, he said.

Testing of the third letter, to Obama, has not yet confirmed it was laced with Ricin.

The “U.S. Secret Service can confirm that the White House mail-screening facility intercepted a letter addressed to the White House that was similar to letters previously addressed to Mayor Bloomberg in New York,” the agency said in a statement. “This letter has been turned over to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force for testing and investigation.”

Ricin is a chemical poison from the castor bean that prevents human cells from making the proteins they need to function. It can be used as a powder, a mist or a pellet, or can be dissolved in water or weak acid, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bloomberg’s office said yesterday that the substance “did not appear to be in a form that could be inhaled or otherwise readily ingested. Touching the envelope or letter should not be a risk.”

Kelly said yesterday that police are investigating two other incidents: a letter containing powder that was placed at the door of a city agency supervisor and two letters sent to the Manhattan office of Public Advocate Bill De Blasio, a Democrat who is running for mayor.

The letters to De Blasio’s office in the Municipal Building. were believed to be bloodstained, written in Spanish and probably sent by the same person, Kelly said. Another letter, with powder, was left at the door of a supervisor at the city’s Department of Environmental Protection offices near City Hall, he said.

One of the letters to Bloomberg was opened last Friday at a city mail facility near City Hall.

Kelly said three members of the police Emergency Service Unit were treated for diarrhea and other symptoms of exposure to ricin.

The other Bloomberg letter was opened Sunday at the Washington offices of the group he co-founded with Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

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(Robert E. Kessler, William Murphy and Maria Alvarez contributed to this report.)

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