A suspicious letter mailed to the White House and intercepted this week was similar to two threatening, poison-laced letters on the gun law debate sent to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the nation’s most potent gun-control advocates, officials said.
Yet another letter became known publicly on Thursday, one tainted with the poison ricin and mailed to US President Barack Obama from Spokane, Washington, the FBI said. Authorities have arrested a man in Spokane in connection with that letter, which was intercepted on Wednesday last week.
The Secret Service said the White House-bound letter similar to the ones Bloomberg was sent was intercepted by a White House mail screening facility.
Two similar letters postmarked in Louisiana and sent to Bloomberg in New York and his gun control group in Washington contained traces of the deadly poison ricin.
It was not immediately clear whether the letter sent to Obama contained ricin. It was turned over to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force for testing and investigation.
The two Bloomberg letters, opened on Friday last week in New York and Sunday in Washington, contained an oily pinkish-orange substance.
New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly said on Thursday the same machine or computer had produced the two letters to Bloomberg and the similar one to Obama and that they may be identical.
The FBI said in a statement that field tests on the letters were consistent with the presence of a biological agent, and the letters were turned over to an accredited laboratory for the kind of thorough analysis that is needed to verify a tentative finding.
The body of the letter mailed to New York was addressed to “you” and referenced the gun control debate.
Kelly said the unsigned letter said, in so many words: “Anyone who comes for my guns will be shot in the face.”
Bloomberg has emerged as one of the country’s most important gun-control advocates, able to press his case with both his public position and his private money.
One of the letters “obviously referred to our anti-gun efforts, but there’s 12,000 people that are going to get killed this year with guns and 19,000 that are going to commit suicide with guns, and we’re not going to walk away from those efforts,” said Bloomberg, adding that he did not feel threatened.
The New York letter was opened at the city’s mail facility in Manhattan in a biochemical containment box, which is a part of the screening process for mayor’s office mail.
The second letter was opened on Sunday by Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Washington-based non-profit organization Bloomberg started.
The letter Glaze opened tested positive for ricin initially.
The other letter to Bloomberg at first tested negative, but tested positive at a retest on Wednesday.
The postal workers union, citing information it got in a Postal Service briefing, said the letters bore a Shreveport, Louisiana, postmark.
Louisiana State Police spokeswoman Julie Lewis said the Shreveport postal center handles mail from Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, so the letter could have come from any of those states.