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Police respond to threat: Law enforcement, emergency services, investigate letter to federal courthouse

Chief of Public Safety Kile Bergren and Fergus Falls Fire Chief Ryan Muchow earned their pay Thursday morning on South Mill Street. It all began at 9 a.m. as snowflakes danced over Fergus Falls. "We got a phone call from the United States Marshal...

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R.C. Drews | daily journal Taking on a threat: Fergus Falls Chief of Public Safety Kile Bergren and Fergus Falls Fire Chief Ryan Muchow, dressed in protective clothing, prepare to enter the federal courthouse on Mill Street in Fergus Falls Thursday. Law enforcement was called to the scene after a threatening letter caused a hazardous material situation.

Chief of Public Safety Kile Bergren and Fergus Falls Fire Chief Ryan Muchow earned their pay Thursday morning on South Mill Street.

It all began at 9 a.m. as snowflakes danced over Fergus Falls.

"We got a phone call from the United States Marshal Service that the federal courthouse here in Fergus Falls received a letter that was threatening in nature," Bergren said. "Because of the specific nature of the threat, it was potentially a hazardous material type of situation."

With fire trucks blocking both ends of the 100 block of South Mill and police vehicles blocking an alley, Bergren and Muchow began their investigation at the west end of the huge building.

The two chiefs-donned protective clothing before going inside.

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"We had been in contact with a number of state agencies and as well as federal agencies. We just used standard protocol. We went inside and were able to safely get the two people inside the building out," Bergren said. Bergren said that after the two men viewed the situation inside the federal building they determined there wasn't any credible threat.

The investigation took approximately two and half hours. "At this point, we're just waiting for additional direction from federal authorities but we don't see this as any legitimate concern from the letter that was sent," Bergren said. Because the building is a federal facility Bergren said the U.S. Marshal Service would have primary jurisdiction of the investigation in the future. What the nature of the hazardous material might have been was a question Bergren preferred to leave to federal officers.

He expected investigators from the Marshal Service's St. Paul office to arrive in Fergus Falls later on Thursday. Bergren confirmed that there are suspects in the case but added they are not local. Bergren said he did not believe the fact that the federal government is currently experiencing a partial shutdown had anything to do with the threat.

Muchow said Fergus Falls police and fire departments were assisted by Ringdahl Ambulance, the FBI, Lake Region Healthcare and numerous state agencies.

"So much that was done today was done because of a precautionary nature," Bergren said, adding that government and more specifically federal facilities are often targeted. Most of his experience with threats against federal facilities followed 9/11. His most recent experience with one involved a suspicious package that was received by the Social Security office in Fergus Falls earlier this year.

Related Topics: FERGUS FALLS
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