Suspicious package just food in a bag

CHAMPAIGN – Somebody near the Champaign City Building may have been hungry Friday but he or she wasn't admitting it.

A suspicious looking package found near a main entrance about 7 a.m. prompted the combined University of Illinois-Champaign police bomb squad to activate.

"It was someone's lunch. It was just food in a bag," said Champaign police Deputy Chief Troy Daniels moments after a water cannon had "rendered it safe."

"The food is now in several pieces all over the sidewalk," he said at 9 a.m. as the all-clear was issued for city employees to enter their offices. "I have no idea (who it belonged to)."

The bag, stuffed full, was so close to the building entrance on the Chester Street (north) side that it made public works employees who were clearing sidewalks think it was odd. Police hurried to the area, blocked off traffic on southbound Neil Street at Church within minutes, and called the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit.

Fire and ambulance personnel also stood by and reporters gathered to find out why traffic was blocked during the busy morning commute.

Daniels said about 10 members of the squad responded. He said police took no chances because similar looking packages at other locations around the country have turned out to be lethal.

"We appreciate that the police were right there and keeping everyone away from the building," said City Attorney Fred Stavins.

Stavins said employees arriving for work were corralled to the hallway on the west side of the building near the Neil Street entrance. Those already in offices were also told to go downstairs or outside.

Many took the opportunity to go to nearby coffee shops until the situation was defused, or drowned, as the case may be. Stavins was among them.

Getting back to work after the excitement was over, he realized that he had left a bag in which he carries personal items like keys, identification, and phone on a chair at Aroma Cafe around the corner.

"I called them up quick and said it was mine," he said, not wanting anyone to think it was a bomb.

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