Law enforcement officials are investigating a suspicious package found early this morning at Ottawa University, 1001 S. Cedar St., where students and faculty have been evacuated and classes are canceled or will be rescheduled today. An unconfirmed report, however, indicates the package might have been part of an on-campus birthday activity Wednesday.
The package — described as a "treasure chest box" (an oversized box with a shaped lid) — appeared to be sealed with duct tape, Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, said.
A custodian noticed the package about 5:20 a.m. today at Tauy Jones Hall on the OU campus, Butler said. The package was out of place and had not been there previously. The custodian backed away from the package and notified authorities, he said. Other custodial staff apparently had reported seeing similar boxes Wednesday near OU's Mowbray Student Union.
No one has claimed responsibility for the package or packages, the police chief said.
Jenna Lunger, a junior at OU and a member of The Campus student newspaper staff, said later Monday morning that similar cardboard boxes were used Wednesday for a scavenger hunt to celebrate a fellow student's birthday. Lunger also is the daughter of Undersheriff Steve Lunger.
Butler said it could be a long day at OU, with drug-sniffing dogs and a bomb unit on their way to the campus. A heavy presence of law enforcement, including Ottawa police, the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and the FBI, were on the scene by 8 a.m.
Residential students have been evacuated to a residence hall on the extreme northeast end of the campus, Butler said, and students and faculty are encouraged to stay home today from the closed university.
Authorities have alerted officials at nearby Garfield Elementary School, 1213 S. College St., of the situation, Butler said, though he emphasized he had no information to suggest Garfield students were in immediate danger.
Capt. Adam Weingartner, with the Ottawa police department, is coordinating law enforcement at the scene.
Ottawa Mayor Blake Jorgensen, who lives across the street from OU's campus, said he was notified about an incident at the university earlier this morning by Richard Neinstedt, city administrator. At the time, however, details were unclear and the mayor didn't realize the incident was so close to his home.
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