The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Business

April 13, 2012

Toy grenade prompts NYC office building evacuation

NEW YORK — A gag grenade mounted on a plaque that said “Complaint department: Take a number” led to the evacuation Thursday of an office building near ground zero, and the employee responsible for it was put on administrative leave.

The package was discovered in a mail room. It was a fake, 1940s-style pineapple grenade mounted on a plaque, with a number one attached to the pin.

The police bomb squad was called to 2 World Financial Center in lower Manhattan at midday when a security guard reported a mail-order package that seemed suspicious. Brookfield Properties, which runs the property, ordered an evacuation as a precaution.

The building is near the World Trade Center site and was damaged on Sept. 11, when terror attacks killed nearly 3,000 people.

Several employees said an announcement came over the building loudspeakers telling them to evacuate as quickly as possible. Octavio Diaz was wearing a neon yellow backpack as he helped lead his co-workers out of the building to a nearby volleyball court, where they waited until the all-clear.

“Stuff like this happens, so you’ve got to take it seriously,” he said. “We’re ready to go.”

Employees in business suits filed calmly back into the building after the New York Police Department declared the all-clear about 90 minutes later.

The evacuated building houses major financial institutions, including Merrill Lynch, Nomura Securities, Deloitte, Commerzbank and OppenheimerFunds Inc.

A Nomura Securities spokesman said that one of the company’s employees was responsible for bringing the fake explosive into the building and that that person was being placed on administrative leave, pending an internal review.

Police said it was determined that the package had been ordered by an employee, who told investigators he bought it from an Oklahoma City-based mail-order company that specializes in U.S. Marine Corps novelties.

Police said there was no threat, and no criminal investigation is taking place.

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