Niagara Gazette

April 16, 2013

Police err on side of caution in examining backpack left behind at Falls municipal building

By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette

NIAGARA FALLS —

A day after a double bombing rocked the site of the Boston Marathon, a backpack left on the steps of a Main Street municipal building caused a bit of a stir in Niagara Falls. 

City police sectioned off 1000 block of Main Street in front of the Carnegie Building Tuesday morning to allow members of the New York State Police Bomb Disposal Unit to use a remote-controlled robot to investigate the backpack's contents. 

Upon further investigation, members of the bomb squad found no explosive devices or any other potentially harmful materials inside. Police said the bag contained paperwork and harmless personal items. 

Niagara Falls Police Chief Bryan DalPorto said police were called to the scene by a maintenance worker at the Carnegie Building who noticed the backpack at around 6 a.m. when he arrived for work. DalPorto said the maintenance worker called police because he did not notice the backpack on the steps when he left the building at the close of business the night before. 

"Being on alert with all the events that went on, he called the police department," DalPorto said. "We responded and observed what appeared to be a backpack on the steps."

"We erred on the side of caution and called the New York State Police bomb squad out," DalPorto added. "They were able to X-ray the package using the robot and opened the package and determined that there was no explosive device in there."

While he acknowledged that his department and other local law enforcement agencies are on high alert for suspicious activity in light of Monday's bombings in Boston, DalPorto said his department's response was in keeping with standard procedures under such circumstances. 

"This would probably be the normal response when we are dealing with a suspicious package," DalPorto said. "I don't know that it would have been the normal response of the maintenance worker, but with the events of yesterday, as a city we are on high alert for any suspicious activity."

Police detained two people in connection with the backpack itself. The pair were released following questioning by police.

One of the individuals, Bob Dendy, said he was carrying the backpack for a friend when he stopped on the steps of the Carnegie Building for a smoke break Monday evening. Dendy said he left the bag behind on the steps, not realizing he did so until the next day. Dendy said when he approached the Carnegie Building Tuesday morning he saw police and the scene and was informed by a bystander watching the action that they were investigating a report of a suspicious package left on the steps.

"I just sat down and had a cigarette," Dendy said. "It was an inadvertent error. I just walked off and left the backpack behind."