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Marion Square shut down briefly as suspicious package found in newspaper box

  • Marion Police were on the scene near City Hall Monday morning after a suspicious package was found in a newspaper box.

    Marion Police were on the scene near City Hall Monday morning after a suspicious package was found in a newspaper box.
    Kristin Moore photo

  • Officials closed down the Marion Square Monday morning after a suspicious package was found in a newspaper box outside of City Hall.

    Officials closed down the Marion Square Monday morning after a suspicious package was found in a newspaper box outside of City Hall.
    Kristin Moore photo

  • The Salvation Army was one of several businesses evacuated Monday morning on the Marion Square.

    The Salvation Army was one of several businesses evacuated Monday morning on the Marion Square.
    Kristin Moore photo

  • Officials evacuated buisnesses and cordoned off the Marion Square Monday morning after a suspicious backpack was found inside a newspaper box at City Hall.

    Officials evacuated buisnesses and cordoned off the Marion Square Monday morning after a suspicious backpack was found inside a newspaper box at City Hall.
    Kristin Moore photo

 
BY HOLLY KEE
Staff Writer
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
updated: 8/5/2019 3:19 PM

MARION -- Tower Square in the City of Marion was closed Monday morning for about two hours after a suspicious package was found outside City Hall.

According to Mayor Mike Absher, a backpack was found in a newspaper vending machine at the City Hall by a customer attempting to retrieve a paper.

"There is no reason for a backpack to be in a machine," he said.

That machine belongs to the Marion Star, a weekly newspaper in the city.

According to a statement released by the City just before noon, the package was found at approximately 8:45 a.m.

Marion Police and Fire Departments were notified and the Illinois Secretary of State Police's Hazardous Device Unit was dispatched.

The Marion Police Department evacuated the square while the package was being investigated.

Absher's Chief of Staff Cody Moake confirmed that the backpack contained female clothing and female personal hygiene items. He also confirmed it was discovered by a city employee.

At approximately 11 a.m., authorities cleared the package as a threat and regular business resumed around the square at 11:15 a.m.

Marion Star Publisher Bill Swinford posted the following statement on the Marion Star Facebook page: "We at the Marion Star were notified that a backpack was found inside our newspaper box outside Marion City Hall. This backpack was treated as a suspicious package and all precautions were taken by the city and its police department, including the evacuation of the square and the closure of the Square. We have been told that the backpack contained harmless items, though it's origin remains unknown. Because our office is on the Square, we were among those evacuated. We are thankful to the city for taking appropriate precautions and glad to hear that the backpack was apparently not left with any malicious intent."

The Marion Police Department is investigating origin of the package. Moake confirmed that authorities are reviewing video footage as part of the investigation.

More information will be released as it becomes available.