The Santa Barbara County bomb squad was called in to investigate a locked safe that was left outside the Santa Maria Police Department Tuesday by a man who claimed to be a federal agent, according to a city spokesman.
Some eight hours after the incident began, following a day-long evacuation, the safe was relocated to a remote location to be destroyed, according to a city spokesman.
The saga began about 9 a.m. when man entered the lobby of the police station on Cook Street, and asked to talk with an officer about a safe he said he had found on the 800 block of Broadway, said city spokesman Mark van de Kamp.
The man was elusive regarding his identification, van de Kamp said, and was not directly answering questions. He later described the main as a “good Samaritan.”
Because the safe was locked and its contents unknown — and due to its proximity to the building — the decision was made to evacuate the police station and the adjacent city attorney’s office, van de Kamp said.
The Sheriff’s Department’s bomb squad, which has specialized equipment for determining the safe’s content, was called in, van de Kamp said. Shortly after 5 p.m., the safe was removed, the evacuation was ended and police operations returned to normal, van de Kamp said.
During the shut-down, the Police Department’s 911 calls were being rerouted to the Sheriff’s Department for dispatch, van de Kamp said, and city police set up a mobile command post nearby.
During the incident, some 40 people were evacuated, and McClelland Street and Cook Street were blocked off in the area, van de Kamp said.
City Hall, the Library and the Paul Nelson Pool remained opened, he added.