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FBI testing white powder mailed to two LDS temples


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Team coverageA letter containing white powder was discovered at Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City today. The scare shut down a temple annex building for more than an hour.

About the same time, another envelope filled with white powder forced the closure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' temple in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.

In Salt Lake City, the powder was found by temple workers this afternoon. FBI agents took the powder immediately, and tonight it's at a lab somewhere in the valley, being tested to determine if it's a health risk.

The first test the powder will undergo is a presumptive test to see if it's a known toxin. "The quickest we can get a turn around is 24 to 48 hours," said FBI Special Agent Juan Becerra.

Becerra and his team want to get the results quickly and report them to the public to calm fears of a health concern, though the health of the exposed church employees who opened the envelope is a positive sign.

"At this point we wouldn't want to venture a guess. Though it seems no one has gotten hurt; everyone seems normal, so there's no immediate health reaction to the workers in the temple," Becerra said.

The three clerks in the office who opened the manila envelope and reported the suspicious powder are home tonight but have been told to call police if they become ill.

Becerra did confirm to us that the powder wasn't the only thing in the envelope. "There was something in with the powder," he said.

But he says he doesn't know what because the powder was immediately bagged up and taken away.

Even if the powder is found harmless, the penalty is still severe. "It is a federal offense to mail something like that. If it's a joke, or to make a point, it is a federal offense," Becerra said.

No one inside of the temple was evacuated. However, no new patrons were allowed to go inside during the investigation. Church officials later reopened the temple to church members.

Also tonight, a white powder was found at a printing press run by The Knights of Columbus in Windsor Locks, Conn.

The Knights are the world's largest Catholic fraternal service, and because the Catholic Church supported California's Prop 8, police are wondering if there is a connection.

As for the tests from Salt Lake's Temple Square, as soon as they're released, we will give that information to you.

Tune into Eyewitness News Today, KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM and KSL.com tomorrow morning for any overnight developments.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com
E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com
E-mail: mgiauque@ksl.com

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