Hundreds evacuated after smoke bombs triggered in downtown Seattle

Wednesday, July 10, 2002 – 01:01 p.m. Pacific
By Dave Birkland
Seattle Times staff reporter

Animal rights activists may be responsible for smoke bombs set off in two downtown buildings in Seattle this morning, sending hundreds of office workers into the streets, police said.

Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske called the smoke bombings domestic terrorism and said the targets appear to have been companies whose clients are involved in research that uses animals in their testing.

The attacks were described as well-planned and well-timed and occurred within two minutes of each other. Kerlikowske said similar attacks have occurred in other cities.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are involved in the investigation. Kerlikowske said police have been given a number of descriptions of suspects from people who work in the buildings.

John Miller of UNICO Properties, which manages one of the buildings, said he was told by fire officials that the canister found on the 23rd floor has a message which read: “Evacuate the building.”

Approximately 700 people in the Financial Center, Fourth Avenue and University Street, were told to leave the building when what authorities called a military-type smoke bomb was found on the 23rd floor at 9:36 a.m., according to fire officials.

“Two minutes earlier, a similar smoke device was set off on the 20th floor of a building at Seventh Avenue and Pike Street,” said Helen Fitzpatrick, Fire Department spokeswoman.

At the Seventh and Pike building, two floors were evacuated, but people in that building were allowed back by late this morning.

Floors 18 to 27 were evacuated first in the Financial Center, but a short time later all employees were told to leave the building

Seattle Fire Chief Gary Morris said the risk of fire was high from what he called incendiary devices. There were no reports of injuries.

Rufo Calvo, one of the many office workers evacuated, said the evacuation was orderly but he was upset in light of Sept. 11 and continued terrorist threats. “It scares me,” Calvo said.