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Reports: Ricin-tainted letters threaten more violence

2:03 PM, May 30, 2013   |    comments
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by David Jackson, Kevin Johnson and John Bacon, USA TODAY

President Obama has been sent a threatening letter similar to the ricin-tainted letters sent to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Bloomberg's Washington-based gun-control group, the Secret Service said Thursday.

The Secret Service "can confirm that the White House mail screening facility intercepted a letter addressed to the White House ... similar to letters previously addressed to Mayor Bloomberg in New York. This letter has been turned over to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force for testing and investigation," the agency said in a statement.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said all presidential mail is examined at the offsite facility.

"We have precautions in place for these kinds of things," Earnest said.

The letter to Obama was discovered Wednesday. The other letters, postmarked May 20 in Shreveport, La., were opened in New York on Friday at the city's mail facility in Manhattan and in Washington on Sunday at an office of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

CNN, citing a source with knowledge of the letters to Bloomberg and his gun group, said those letters include this:

"You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face. The right to bear arms is my constitutional God-given right and I will exercise that right till the day I die."

The letters "obviously referred to our anti-gun efforts, but there's 12,000 people that are going to get killed this year with guns and 19,000 that are going to commit suicide with guns, and we're not going to walk away from those efforts," Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg said he didn't "feel threatened."

The letters addressed to Bloomberg and Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, both tested positive for ricin, New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said. More testing was scheduled.

Browne would not confirm the language in the letters, but said the "subject matter was gun owner rights and they contained the same threatening language."

Three New York officers involved in the case experienced mild diarrhea Saturday, a minor symptom of ricin exposure, Browne said. In Washington, Glaze showed no symptoms after opening that letter, the group said.

Bloomberg ranks among the nation's most outspoken gun-control advocates. Mayors Against Illegal Guns was co-founded in 2006 by Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who serve as its co-chairs. It claims a membership of more than 850 mayors in 44 states.

Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover said Shreveport police are working with the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force to determine who sent the letters and where the ricin came from.

"We are also taking the necessary steps to protect United States Postal Service ... as well as any of our citizens from any potential harm,'' Glover said.

Ricin naturally occurs in castor beans and can be fatal if inhaled or ingested. Ricin-tainted threats have been sent recently to Obama, lawmakers and judges.

Last week, a Washington state man was accused of including ricin in a death threat mailed to a federal judge. Matthew Buquet, 38, of Spokane, was being held without bond.

In late April, a Mississippi man was arrested on charges of mailing poisoned letters to Obama, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker and an 80-year-old judge in Tupelo, Miss. The FBI said Everett Dutschke, 41, bought castor bean seeds online late last year. Agents found traces of ricin on several objects retrieved from trash at his Tupelo home and near his martial-arts studio.

Contributing: Michael Winter; Kristi Johnston, shreveporttimes.com; Associated Press

Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com

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