Diocese evacuated after man leaves suspicious package

South Burlington Police were called to the Roman Catholic Diocese on Joy Drive Friday afternoon after a suspicious package was left at the building. The package was deemed not explosive or dangerous, but the incident led to an evacuation of the diocese and disrupted the neighborhood for hours. However, no arrests were made.

According to a South Burlington Police press release, diocese staff members said that a man arrived Friday afternoon around 3 p.m. asking to speak with Bishop Christopher Coyne. They said the man made them feel “unsettled,” and described his behavior as someone experiencing a crisis event. Police said the man left behind the package before leaving the property, prompting the staff at the diocese to call the police.

Officers discovered a package that had “characteristics of an improvised explosive device” located in one of the exterior alcoves of the diocese. The building and surrounding property were immediately evacuated while South Burlington Fire and the Vermont State Police were called to the scene. The Vermont State Police Bomb Squad determined that the suspicious package was not explosive or hazardous in anyway.

Using video sources and witness accounts, investigators identified the man and a “be on the lookout” was broadcast to area law enforcement. During the course of the investigation, the man called the Vermont State Police to offer more details about the message and package he wanted the diocese to have. South Burlington Police Detectives were able to meet with the man and interviewed him at length. Investigators determined that the man did not intend to threaten or harm anyone and learned more about the contents of the package.

The findings of the state police investigation confirmed what the man had shared with investigators.

“It was determined that the male subject had no criminal intent but the manner in which he presented the suspicious package he left behind, and the erratic behavior he displayed with investigators warranted the response of public safety witnessed yesterday,” South Burlington Police Chief Shawn Burke stated in the release. “No criminal referrals are being made in this case, the male subject was given referrals to local support networks for his crisis symptoms. We are thankful to our partner agency, the Vermont State Police, for their expertise which rendered the scene safe in a very short period of time.”

Burke also thanked the Joy Drive neighborhood residents for their cooperation as the police activity disrupted pedestrian and vehicle traffic flow.

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