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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 9:09 pm | Fair 53º


Santa Barbara Bomb Squad Clears ‘Suspicious Package’ at Pacific Pride Foundation Office

Police determine parcel was books wrapped in brown paper, clear the scene after road closures and evacuations on Haley Street

The Santa Barbara Police Department responded to a suspicious package call at the Pacific Pride Foundation office Monday. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara Police Department responded to a suspicious package call at the Pacific Pride Foundation office Monday.  (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

A bomb squad was called out to investigate a suspicious package left near the Pacific Pride Foundation Haley Street office Monday afternoon, and the parcel was determined to be books, Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood said.

A Pacific Pride Foundation employee reported the package around 3:50 p.m. after finding a package wrapped in brown paper with some print on it in the middle of the walkway by the office door, Harwood said. 

The person thought it was "rather odd" and the first responding officers agreed, which prompted the full bomb squad response, Harwood said.

The 126 E. Haley St. building was evacuated and nearby residents and businesses sheltered in place while authorities closed a block of Haley Street. 

"It's basically an unusual location for something like that and given recent events there's definitely additional concern," Harwood said. 

A Santa Barbara man is facing battery and hate crime charges after allegedly yelling homophobic names, profanity and threats at two men, and assaulting one of them on State Street Oct. 4. 

Richard Shiwietz and a close friend, Saul Lerma, were walking arm in arm downtown that night when the suspect, 54-year-old John Harlan Savala, allegedly flipped off the two men, who are gay, and punched Shiwietz in the head, giving him a black eye and a concussion.

Savala was arrested and booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on $50,000 bail. 

The Pacific Pride Foundation, which Shiwietz contacted after the assault, is holding a solidarity event Tuesday at De la Guerra Plaza to share the men's story and encourage attendees to take action when they see harassment or violence, according to organizers. 

Bomb squad members investigated a suspicious package reported at the Pacific Pride Foundation office on Haley Street Monday. Click to view larger
Bomb squad members investigated a suspicious package reported at the Pacific Pride Foundation office on Haley Street Monday.  (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

After the bomb squad investigation of the suspicious package left at the Pacific Pride Foundation office, the parcel was determined to be books around 6 p.m., Harwood said. 

Authorities started to break down the scene, while documenting all the physical evidence in case it's determined a crime was committed, he added.  

"It was not obviously a donation or anything like that," he said of the package. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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