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Tamar Hallerman

Authorities testing suspicious substance sent to Hank Johnson’s DeKalb office

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September 30, 2014 DeKalb: U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson , a character witness for suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis listens to a question from DeKalb District Attorney Robert James Tuesday September 30, 2014. Ellis is fighting charges that he intimidated companies doing business with DeKalb County into giving him campaign contributions. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM


Authorities are testing a red powdery substance that was sent to the DeKalb County office of U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, an aide to the Lithonia Democrat said.

Johnson’s office was evacuated Thursday morning after the suspicious substance was discovered, our colleague Steve Burns reported earlier today. Authorities gave the “all-clear” about two hours later.

The aide said the FBI has determined that the substance was not anthrax. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is testing the substance and the results should be available within the next two to four days, the staffer said.

The female staffer who found the substance, which was stuffed in what looked like a tea bag in a white business envelope with no return address, was wearing gloves, a mask and was using what’s known as a mail hood, a tool the aide said is now very common with congressional offices. The aide said the staffer showed no signs of being exposed to a dangerous substance, was interviewed and subsequently allowed to go home.

Johnson was in Seattle this morning at a Congressional Black Caucus event when the substance was found. The Democrat is now on his way back to Georgia.

“I want to thank Homeland Security, the FBI, DeKalb Police, Fire Rescue and their Hazmat team for their rapid response and professionalism in handling this situation and keeping my staff safe. Fortunately, staff has been trained on how to handle suspicious packages and mail and proper protocols were followed in this case. While the substance in question has been contained, I look forward to the results of the pending investigation,” Johnson said in a statement.