A St. Louis-area hospital is diverting new patients and two major highways through the region adjacent to the hospital are closed to traffic following reports of two “suspicious packages” being found near the hospital, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting.
At 12:10 p.m. Central time, Mercy Hospital, in suburban Creve Couer, issued a statement via CBS News St. Louis that traffic around the area was being diverted.
“Two potentially explosive devices have been identified on campus at Mercy Hospital St. Louis today. Both are away from the building; no patients or co-workers are in harm’s way at this time. Law enforcement is on site and investigating the devices. Out of an abundance of caution, and in order to ensure the safety of our patients and co-workers, the hospital emergency department is diverting patients to other facilities. More information will be provided as it is available from law enforcement.”
Specifically, the two “explosive devices” were found near the hospital’s helicopter pad, which is near the entrance to the building.
Interstates 270 and 64 have been closed in both directions as police investigate the scene. The nearby intersection of 270 and 64, which ordinarily would be choked with midday traffic, is empty.
— Bob Rose (@brosepd) June 13, 2016
The St. Louis County Bomb Squad is planning to detonate the devices, according to KTVI-TV (St. Louis). Police in bomb-proof suits and a bomb-detonating robot have been observed in and around the hospital.
UPDATE: At 1:17 p.m. local time, according to a follow-up report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, police had detonated at least one of the packages. It still remains unclear what type of explosive was found in the package.
— FOX2now (@FOX2now) June 13, 2016
The Missouri Highway Patrol has declined to comment on the developing situation. Meanwhile, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon would only say that he has “been briefed on the situation.”
Briefed on situation in Creve Coeur. Have directed Missouri State Highway Patrol to work with local law enforcement
— Governor Jay Nixon (@GovJayNixon) June 13, 2016
As of this writing, authorities have no suspects and no possible motive, including the possibility that the bombs may be terrorism-related.
So-called “soft targets” – that is, places where civilians are likely to congregate, such as night clubs, hospitals, and shopping centers – have often been targets for terrorists. Just last weekend, a terrorist with suspected ties to Middle Eastern terrorist organization ISIS shot and killed 50 people and injured over 50 more at an Orlando gay night club, in what was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Similarly, terrorists in Paris targeted concerts and night clubs, with both bombs and assault weapons, when carrying out the deadly November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks which killed over 150 people.
As of this writing, there has never been a terrorist attack on a hospital in the United States. However, Keith Pounds, writing in The D.C. Clothesline, says it’s only a matter of time before a terrorist attacks a hospital.
“Most medical facilities typically have little or no reasonable means of protecting employees, visitors or patients from armed attack, and long hallways and passageways can mean that escape from armed assault is almost impossible.”
Although no terrorist attack is known to have taken place at a U.S. hospital, hospitals have, in the past, been targeted by bomb threats. For example, in November 2015, according to The New York Post, a Utah man, upset that his missed his child’s birth, phoned in a bomb threat to a Salt Lake City hospital. No bomb was found, and the hospital resumed normal operations shortly after the threat was investigated.
This is a developing story. More information about the suspicious packages found at a St. Louis hospital will be provided as it becomes available.
[Image via Gts/Shutterstock]