The FBI is investigating a “possible incendiary device” found outside a government building where two federal agents were shot during the George Floyd protests in 2020.
Police in Oakland, California said on Wednesday that they had discovered a device “similar to a pipe bomb” in a plant bed outside the Rodney V Dellums Federal Building, which houses government workers and a courthouse.
The Oakland Police Department (OPD) closed off a 15-block area around City Hall and evacuated office workers and residents from nearby buildings, while a bomb squad from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office examined the device.
“At this time the device is being examined to determine the nature of what’s in that package,” said FBI special agent John Blaire Blair. “The FBI is on scene and will be the lead investigative agency based upon what we find in that device as this wears on.”
Helicopters could be heard throughout the afternoon above the the city, which neighbours San Francisco and is part of the 10 million strong San Francisco Bay Area. The 12th St Oakland metro station was also closed.
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt Ray Kelly said his officers were being cautious about tampering with the device because it had characteristics that they found alarming.
Clay Street between 11th and 16th St and Jefferson and Broadway is closed due to possible incendiary device. @ACSOSheriffs bomb squad on the scene. There are no further details at this time. pic.twitter.com/SOxRQd06ND
— Oakland Police Dept. (@oaklandpoliceca) January 19, 2022
RIGHT NOW: Evacuations in Downtown Oakland. Clay Street, between 11th and 14th, closed because of possible incendiary device. Bomb squad on scene.https://t.co/1R785OyUJM@nbcbayarea pic.twitter.com/mDtsLzWrMl
— Janelle Wang (@janellewang) January 19, 2022
“We have not at this point been able to rule out that it’s a credible [explosive] device,” he said. “It’s got a lot of characteristics that are concerning to us... every time we look more into what we’re dealing with, we see more problems.”
The device was found outside the same building where one federal agent was killed and one wounded during the chaotic George Floyd protests in downtown Oakland in summer 2020.
Some early media reports blamed Black Lives Matter protesters, but US prosecutors now allege that the culprit was a member of the extremist Boogaloo subculture who wanted to spark wider rebellion against the government.
Police were alerted to the device at around 12.40pm on Wednesday when a Federal Protective Service employee saw someone put a suspicious package at the base of a flagpole in a plaza outside the building.
Sgt Kelly said the device was proving difficult to work with because it was “kind of sandwiched in around dirt and soil and terrain” inside the “deep” plant bed.
This story was updated at 16:48 on Wednesday 19 January 2022 to add details from a police press conference.