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Bomb squad removes suspicious briefcase

MEDFORD — A mysterious briefcase dropped in front of the 7-Eleven on West Main Street Wednesday prompted police to summon a bomb squad robot to dispose of the package.

Employees at the 7-Eleven grew concerned after a man whom they said was acting strangely dropped the briefcase under a pay phone outside the store and fled.

Medford police arrived at the store at around 5:30 p.m. and roped off the parking lot.

"We will always show caution in these situations," Medford police Cpl. Mark Patterson said.

Police ordered the 7-Eleven employees to remain in the store while an Oregon State Police bomb squad remote-controlled robot was dispatched.

Jackson County sheriff's Sgt. Eric Fox, a bomb squad veteran, maneuvered the robot slowly across the parking lot toward the case.

Once the robot took hold of the brown satchel it wheeled it to an Oregon State Police bomb disposal pod parked near West Main Street.

The case slipped from the robot's grasp on the first attempt to place it in the pod. The robot soon regrouped and was able to secure the case just after 8:30 p.m.

The package was taken to the OSP crime lab in Central Point where it will be determined if it contained a bomb. If so, it will be exploded at a secure area, Patterson said.

"We don't know if this was a crime," Patterson said. "If it turns out to be a bomb, then it definitely is. If not, then we have to learn the man's intention in putting it in front of the store."

The man could face charges of possession of a hoax destruction device, which is a misdemeanor unless the device is used during the committing of a felony crime. The hoax charge then steps up to a felony.

Police closed West Main Street to traffic while the robot worked.

Keith Sparacio, who was working at the News & Smokes shop next to the 7-Eleven, said people passing through the area were disturbed by the man suspected of dropping the case.

"It bothered us after he left," Sparacio said. "A lot of people walked by the case but no one wanted to touch it. It was weird."

The man was described as a heavy-set white adult who was wearing blue shorts and a white shirt.

Anyone who has information about the incident is asked to call Medford police detectives at 774-2266.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Bomb squad removes suspicious briefcase