New York mayor Michael Bloomberg R 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Andrew Burton)
NEW YORK - Two anonymous letters addressed to New York City
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his gun control group contained material believed to
be the potentially deadly poison ricin, and referenced the debate on gun laws,
police said on Wednesday.
The New York Police Department said initial
tests on the two letters, opened in New York on Friday and in Washington, DC,
on Sunday, indicated the presence of ricin.
"In both letters the content
was identical," police spokesman Paul Browne said, adding that the packages
contained "an oily substance" that was a pink or orange hue. "One letter was
addressed to the mayor personally." Emergency workers who came in contact with
the letters initially showed minor symptoms of ricin exposure, police said.
Those symptoms have since abated. Civilian personnel in New York and Washington
who came in contact with the opened letters showed no symptoms of ricin
The Washington letter was opened by Mark Glaze, the director of
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group founded by Bloomberg that lobbies for
stricter gun laws. The other letter was opened at a mail facility in
Both contained threats against Bloomberg and mentioned the gun
debate, police said in a statement.
Bloomberg said he did not feel either
threatened or angry by the letters and that they would not affect his work on
"In terms of why they've done it, I don't know. The letter
... obviously referred to our anti-gun efforts, but there's 12,000 people that
are going to get killed this year with guns and 19,000 that are going to commit
suicide with guns, and we're not going to walk away from those efforts," he said
in remarks released by his press office.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns was
founded in 2006, but the group's profile has been raised since the Dec. 14
shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20
children and six adults.
After that shooting, the group campaigned for
bills that would expand the use of background checks for gun purchases and ban
assault weapons, though both of those efforts were unsuccessful.
discovery of the letters comes just weeks after ricin-tainted letters were
mailed to President Barack Obama and other government officials. James Everett
Dutschke, 41, a martial arts instructor, was arrested in Tupelo, Mississippi, on
April 27 on suspicion of mailing those letters.
Browne said previous
letters sent to the mayor have tested positive for anthrax, though in most cases
letters "with threats implying it was anthrax or ricin" contained only baking
The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the NYPD Intelligence
Division were investigating the incident.
Ricin is a lethal poison found
naturally in castor beans, but it takes a deliberate act to convert it into a
biological weapon. Ricin can cause death within 36 to 72 hours from exposure to
an amount as small as a pinhead. No known antidote exists.