CINCINNATI (FOX19) – The Hamilton County Courthouse will be shut down on Tuesday over a possible suspicious package inside a suitcase.
A woman going to a court appearance was stopped with the suitcase at a metal detector near the courthouse front doors just before 8:30 a.m., said Jim Knapp, chief of staff for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.
The woman is undergoing questioning. She has not been identified or charged. Federal counter-terrorism officials also are on scene.
An X-ray determined the contents of the suitcase hold what appear to be a suspicious item. A bomb-sniffing dog got a “hit” on the suitcase.
A robot is going to try to open it away from the public so no one is hurt.
“They’re hoping to be able to open it without blowing it up,” Knapp said.
Hundreds of courthouse workers including judges and prosecutors; lawyers and defendants were evacuated from the county’s main courthouse encompassing an entire city block along Main, Court and Sycamore streets and Central Parkway.
Cincinnati police shut down Main Street at Ninth Street until further notice.
“Without question” this is the biggest and longest evacuation of the building, said FOX19 NOW legal analyst Mike Allen, Hamilton County’s former prosecutor.
“This obviously puts a huge crimp in the justice system in Hamilton County to come to a screeching halt like this just as court is starting in the morning,” Allen said. “Everyone will have to continue their docket. It’s a royal mess.”
Once court does resume, Knapp said, it will be up to individual judges to decide if they want to proceed with cases or at least some of them.
The decision to close for the day came down around 11 a.m.
Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Bernie Bouchard expressed gratitude to sheriff’s deputies for protecting the courthouse.
“It’s not over yet, so it’s a very fluid and scary situation,” Bouchard said. “This just goes to show what the world is like today, you have to be on your toes at all times. Very thankful for the deputies protecting the courthouse. They did an excellent job catching this. Praying for safe end to this scare.”
FOX19 NOW has a crew at the scene and will continue to update this breaking story on air and online.