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No explosives found in suspicious package

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Members of the New Mexico State Police Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team X-ray a suspicious package Friday behind the Joe Skeen Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Roswell Friday. Lance Bateman, captain with the State Police, said the package was later found not to contain explosives. (Alex Ross Photo)

A suspicious package that prompted the evacuation of a federal building in downtown Roswell Friday morning did not contain explosives.

Lance Bateman, captain with the New Mexico State Police, said bomb technicians with the State Police’s Explosives Ordinance Disposal Team performed an X-ray on a package found near a gate behind the Joe Skeen Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on North Richardson Avenue.

When the X-ray did not detect any explosive components, the package was then opened by bomb technicians. The package did not contain anything hazardous.

“They basically determined it not to be an explosive device, so at that point pretty much, the scene was cleared by State Police and turned back over to people at the federal courthouse,” he said.

State Police were contacted after personnel at the Joe Skeen Federal Building viewed security footage from about midnight Friday, which showed an individual drop a package near a gate in an alleyway behind the courthouse and then left the scene.

U.S. Marshals, whose office is housed within the building, then contacted New Mexico State Police at about 9 a.m. to report the suspicious package.

The federal building was then evacuated and people were prevented from entering.

Traffic was diverted from portions of West Fifth and Sixth streets, located between North Richardson and Pennsylvania avenues. Curious onlookers could be seen driving past the scene, or observing events while standing across the street.

Bateman said State Police left the scene and the evacuation was lifted at 11 a.m. Roads that were temporarily closed off were reopened.

A security guard at the federal building said Friday after the evacuation was lifted that some offices within the building had been reopened while others remained closed.

The evacuation came three days after Lovelace Regional Hospital received a call that threatened a possible shooting. As a precaution, Lovelace and Eastern New Mexico Medical Center were both placed on lockdown Tuesday afternoon.

Roswell police then searched both hospitals. The threat was subsequently found to not be credible and the lockdown was lifted at both hospitals.

Todd Wildermuth, public information officer with the Roswell Police Department, said that investigators later traced the call made to Lovelace to a number believed to be from outside the United States.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.