US President Barack Obama makes a statement on the Boston
bombing from the White House in Washington. REUTERS/Kevin
The FBI have arrested a Mississippi man in connection
with letters sent to President Barack Obama and two other
officials that are believed to have contained the deadly poison
ricin, the US Justice Department says.
Paul Kevin Curtis was arrested at his home in Corinth,
Mississippi, and is "believed to be responsible for the
mailings of the three letters sent through the US Postal
Inspection Service which contained a granular substance that
preliminarily tested positive for ricin," the Justice
Department said in a statement.
The letters were addressed to a US senator, the White House
and a Mississippi justice official, the statement said.
The ricin poison scare hit Washington after bombings at the
Boston Marathon killed three people and injured 176 on
Monday, but the FBI said there was no indication the
incidents were connected.
The FBI said the envelope sent to Obama was received at a
mail-screening facility outside the White House and was
immediately quarantined. Preliminary tests showed it
contained the deadly poison ricin, the FBI said
Washington was put on edge on Tuesday evening when news
emerged that authorities had intercepted a letter sent to
Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi that had
initially tested positive for ricin.
Following the arrest, Wicker issued a statement thanking the
FBI and Capitol Police "for their professionalism and
decisive action in keeping our family and staff safe from
Earlier on Wednesday, a flurry of reports of suspicious
letters and packages rattled the US capital and caused the
temporary evacuation of parts of two Senate buildings. Most
of the reports quickly proved to be false alarms, and
business was only temporarily disrupted on Capitol Hill.
The letters to Obama and Wicker had identical language,
included the phrase, "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to
become a silent partner to its continuance." They were
signed, "I am KC and I approve this message," according to an
FBI operations bulletin reviewed by Reuters.
The envelopes both bore postmarks from Memphis, Tennessee,
and were dated April 8. Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton noted in a
statement, however, that it did not mean the letters
originated in that city.
An aide to Wharton said many areas near Memphis were included
in its postmark - including some in neighboring northern
Mississippi, Wicker's state.
For Washingtonians, the situation was an unsettling reminder
of events of nearly 12 years ago when letters containing
anthrax spores were mailed to the Washington offices of two
senators and to media outlets in New York and Florida, not
long after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and
The FBI said White House operations were not affected by the
latest scare. It noted that filters at a second government
mail-screening facility had preliminarily tested positive for
ricin this morning" and mail from that facility was also
The tests were being conducted at Fort Detrick, in Frederick,
Maryland, a government source said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama had been briefed
on the situation.
Ricin is a lethal poison found naturally in castor beans, but
it takes a deliberate act to convert it into a biological
weapon. Ricin can cause death within 36 to 72 hours from
exposure to an amount as small as a pinhead. No known
There was another ricin scare at the US Capitol in 2004, when
tests showed positive on a letter in a Senate mail room that
served the office of Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican who
was then Senate majority leader.
SERIES OF SUSPICIOUS ITEMS
Law enforcement authorities on Wednesday closed and then
reopened parts of the Hart and Russell Senate buildings near
the Capitol after tests on suspect items showed there was no
"All test results were negative," US Capitol Police said over
the public address system in Senate office buildings.
Police questioned a man with a backpack who had been
delivering envelopes to Senate offices, a law enforcement
official said. This delivery method broke the normal
protocol, because no mail is supposed to be delivered without
first being checked at an outside facility, Capitol officials
Police also investigated a suspicious package delivered to
Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby's office in the
Russell building on Wednesday, but determined there was no
threat, said Jonathan Graffeo, a spokesman for Shelby.
West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told reporters
he was kept out of his own office in the Hart office building
for an hour as officials investigated something deemed
In Arizona, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives said two suspicious letters had been sent to
Republican Senator Jeff Flake's Phoenix office. Two staffers
and a police officer were taken to the hospital as a
precautionary measure after reporting irritation when
Flake later issued a statement on Wednesday saying no
dangerous materials were detected in the mailings. One of
them originated in Tennessee, Flake told reporters outside
In Ohio, Columbus police responded to a report of a
suspicious letter received on Wednesday at Republican Senator
Rob Portman's office, but determined it was not dangerous,
Portman's office said.
Democratic Senator Carl Levin said one of his Michigan
regional offices had also received a suspicious letter, but
it was not opened. Authorities are investigating, and a staff
member went to the hospital as a precautionary measure, he
It is unclear if there was a connection linking the series of
suspicious items delivered to politicians.
The Senate's sergeant at arms, Terrance Gainer, sent a memo
to all offices telling them only to accept mail from a
uniformed Senate post office employee and, when in doubt, to
call the police.
He said mail was being delivered that had already been
cleared, but there would be no mail delivered on Thursday and
Friday to allow more testing and investigation.