NEW YORK— The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Police Department are investigating anonymous letters threatening Mayor Michael Bloomberg that tested positive for the deadly chemical ricin.
The writer of a letter opened in New York on May 24 threatened the mayor and made references to “the debate on gun laws,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said in a statement.
Similar correspondence sent to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns in Washington was opened two days later, the NYPD said. Bloomberg is a co-chairman of the coalition, which is a national, bipartisan group of mayors, according to its website.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, which is responsible for the mayor’s protection, are investigating the threats, Browne said. Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the FBI’s New York office, confirmed the bureau is investigating the matter and that the letters are undergoing further tests at a federal lab in Maryland.
Civilian personnel in both locations who came into contact with the letters didn’t display symptoms, Browne said. Members of the NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit who had contact with the New York letters, which were opened at the city’s mail facility on Gold Street in Manhattan, are being examined for minor symptoms of ricin exposure that they experienced that have since abated, Browne said.
Ricin is made from castor beans and has been used experimentally in medicine to kill cancer cells, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. It’s harmful and potentially fatal if inhaled or ingested, according to the CDC.
A man from Tupelo, Mississippi, was arrested last month in connection with the mailing of letters containing ricin to President Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker. James Everett Dutschke was charged with producing a biological agent for use as a weapon.
Dutschke, a former martial arts instructor, was arrested on April 27, four days after federal prosecutors dropped charges against Paul Kevin Curtis, an Elvis impersonator from Corinth, Mississippi. A lawyer for Curtis had told a federal judge during a court hearing that he may have been framed by Dutschke because the men had a long-running feud.
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.