Thursday, October 18, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Firefighters in protective suits, left, Ed Nishi and David
Morgan, and members of the new Hazardous Materials
Assessment Team No. 1 suited up yesterday. They
were responding to a suspicious package at the
Attorney General's Office in the Kekuanaoa
Building in downtown Honolulu.

Isle prosecutors will
throw the book
at anthrax hoaxers

They intend to seek
maximum sentences

By Nelson Daranciang

A Pearl City High School student arrested after allegedly spreading baking powder and powdered sugar in the doorway of a classroom and in a stairwell could face stiff penalties as authorities look to prevent hoaxes or threats using the current anthrax hysteria.

Honolulu City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said such perpetrators will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law.

"And if somebody does that, we catch them, they may be smiling for a while, but we will do everything we can so that they won't be smiling on their way to jail for five years," Carlisle said yesterday.

Five years is the maximum penalty under Hawaii law for terroristic threatening, a Class C felony.

The Pearl City case was the second such scare this week. On Tuesday someone left a threatening note and a white powder in an envelope in the maintenance office of the Coral Creek Golf Course in Ewa. Six employees and a firefighter were decontaminated, though none reported symptoms of contact with anthrax or any other hazardous substance.

At Pearl City High, students were kept in classrooms while firefighters began investigating around 8:30 a.m. About an hour and a half later, two students pointed out the perpetrator, Principal Gerald Suyama said.

The school was kept in lockdown for another 212 hours, after firefighters left, until the student confessed and identified the powder, Suyama said.

Fire officials decided not to collect a sample for testing by either the state or Navy laboratory. Because of the high number of suspicious-substance reports since Friday, tests that used to take four to six hours are now taking several days.

However, beginning today, firefighters will be able to get quicker test results. The city received equipment this week that can test for anthrax and other biological agents and provide results in 15 minutes.

The city has seven units and expects delivery of five more next month. The $15,000 units consist of biological test strips and a reader. The units perform presumptive tests which still need to confirmed with the kind of tests being performed by the Navy laboratory.

Other equipment will allow officials to collect air samples for testing. Honolulu is among the first cities nationwide to have the new test equipment.

"That'll really decrease the amount of time we spend at these scenes," said Honolulu Fire Chief Atillio Leonardi, "and we'd be able to tell the people right off the bat if it's negative. It's 95 percent accurate."

Emergency medical service personnel, Honolulu police and the city Facilities Maintenance Division also will get some of the field test units.

That should help alleviate some of the burden of city ambulances, which have transported 56 people who were exposed to unknown substances to area hospitals since Friday, said Salvatore Lanzilotti, city Emergency Services Department director.

E-mail to City Desk

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