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What makes a package 'suspicious'?

Former JSO Bomb Squad commander explains what to look for

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Crude pipe bombs targeting Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, CNN and others were intercepted Tuesday night and Wednesday, two weeks before nationwide elections.

The devices, which officials said shared a similar design, were aimed at prominent Democrats and a cable news network often criticized by political conservatives. A similar device was found Monday at the New York compound of liberal billionaire George Soros, a major contributor to Democratic causes.

In addition to the bombs, investigators are also concerned about the potentially dangerous chemicals inside the packages. Sgt. Mike Monroe, a former bomb squad commander with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, says clues to look for in a suspicious package include:

  • Name misspellings or inaccuracies
  • Odd smells (like acid or gas)
  • Stains (like oil)
  • Leaking

Suspicious packages might also have protruding wires, excessive postage and be marked "personal" or "private."

"Don't pick it up. Don't kick it. Don't push it. Just leave it where it is," Monroe said. "Just because it has made it through the mail and is sitting on your doorstep does not make it safe for you to pick up."

Monroe said the pipe bombs were similar to the pressure cooker bombs used in the Boston Marathon bombings. He said even small explosives can be deadly and volatile. They can be detonated:

  • Remotely
  • With a timer
  • With a light sensor
  • With a motion sensor

Toni Chrabot, a former FBI agent, says police officers might track purchases, shipping locations, analyze messages and look for surveillance video. The FBI will join with the Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Postal Service.

Chrabot said the packages will be examined inside and out.

"How they were put together and if they were mailed, if there’s a zip code and how they were backtracked," Chrabot said.

Monroe believes detectives have a good chance of tracking down who's responsible.

"This is very difficult to be able to send packages through the mail and not have something inside the package to tell on you," Monroe said. "They will run forensics on it for fingerprints, and if there's saliva on it, they could maybe run a DNA profile."