UPDATE 2: AP: Guns, ‘Anarchist Book’ Found With Ricin:
Firearms and an “anarchist type textbook” were found in the same motel room where several vials of the deadly toxin ricin was found, police said Friday.
The room was most recently occupied by a 57-year-old man who has been in critical condition with breathing problems at a hospital for more than two weeks.
Las Vegas police said there was no apparent link to terrorist activity, and no indication of any spread of the deadly substance beyond the several vials of powder found in a plastic bag in the man’s room on Thursday. But what the ricin was doing there remained a mystery.
A pinprick of ricin is enough to kill.
“Six to eight hours, you’re going to start showing symptoms,” said Greg Evans, director of the Institute for Biosecurity at Saint Louis University in Missouri.
Capt. Joseph Lombardo said at a news conference late Friday that the book was tabbed at a spot with information about ricin. Lombardo did not give more information about the book or specify what kinds of weapons were found.
A friend or relative of the sick man found the vials after going to the Extended Stay America motel, several blocks west of the Las Vegas Strip, to retrieve his belongings, police Deputy Chief Kathy Suey said.
Tests by police homeland security officers, the Nevada National Guard and a laboratory in Las Vegas came back positive for ricin, she said. A cleanup of the motel has been completed, she added.
Seven people, including the man who found the ricin, the manager, two other motel employees and three police officers, were decontaminated at the scene and taken to hospitals for examination, but none have shown any signs of being affected by ricin, Suey said. All were released overnight.
“There is no information to lead us to believe that this is the result of any terrorist activity or related to any possible terrorist activity,” Suey said. “We don’t have any reason to believe any of it left the property.”
Police cordoned off the hotel and told residents to stay in their rooms. The cordon was lifted early Friday morning, and the motel has been open since then.
Lombardo said precautionary tests were also done a room in the Excalibur hotel, where the friend or relative had been saying. He said they came back negative.
Suey said the manufacture of ricin is a crime, but it was not clear the substance found belonged to the man, who was hospitalized in critical condition Feb. 14 after summoning an ambulance to the motel and complaining of respiratory distress.
The man was unconscious and unable to speak, Suey said, adding that he was not currently a suspect.
“We don’t know an awful lot about him,” Suey said. “We don’t even know that it was him that was in possession of the ricin.” She said she could not say how much ricin was in the vials.
UPDATE 1: CNN: 100% Pure Ricin:
It’s “100 percent ricin,” said Capt. Joe Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. “We don’t know who (the ricin) belongs to or why it would be here at this time.”
“We did have enough ricin to be of concern,” Lombardo said. “At this point, it has been contained and processed where it’s not a threat to anybody.”
Lombardo said the “area of concern” is under quarantine and is going through a decontamination process. All seven people have been decontaminated.
Police said they don’t know how many people have stayed in the room recently. [The motel doesn’t keep records of who stayed in the room recently? —Kevin]
The discovery of ricin alarms law-enforcement agencies because authorities in several countries have investigated links between suspect extremists and ricin.
Lombardo said police do not have any suspects at this time.
Ricin is a poison that can be made from waste left over after processing castor beans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The toxin can come in the form of a mist or pellet and can be dissolved in water or weak acid, according to the CDC. The agency also says the toxin works by getting inside the cells of a person’s body and preventing the cells from making the proteins they need.
As little as 500 micrograms — an amount the size of the head of a pin — can kill an adult. It is not yet known how much of the material was found in the room.
Lombardo said authorities found castor beans in the room and also powder in a small vial. He said ricin is not illegal to own, but is illegal if processed to be used for poisoning someone.
I’ll post updates here.
National Guard on scene.
Preliminary tests indicate that a package found at a motel contained the toxin ricin, and seven people have been taken to hospitals, authorities said.
Police were called to the Extended Stay America Motel on Thursday and retrieved a package from the motel manager that was determined to be a chemical or controlled substance, Officer Ramone Denby said.
Two preliminary tests indicate it contained ricin, he said. Results from further tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a second local lab are expected Friday, police said.
Homeland Security officials joined local police in the investigation. Officials from the FBI, Las Vegas Health District, a hazardous materials team and the National Guard were also at the scene.
Officers cordoned off the area and isolated the room where the substance was found.
Three motel employees and another person were quarantined and decontaminated at the site, then taken to hospitals for further testing, Denby said. All appeared to be in good condition, he said. Three police officers who had been exposed were also taken to hospitals.
It takes between six and eight hours for someone exposed to ricin to show signs of contamination, Denby said.
A woman who answered the phone at the motel declined comment.
Ricin is made from the waste left over from processing castor beans, and can be extremely lethal. As little as 500 micrograms, or about the size of the head of a pin, can kill a human, according to the CDC.
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