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Suspicious device in Buena Vista deemed not dangerous

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Feb 18 2014 12:05:12 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 18 2014 10:08:48 PM CST

Situation closes U.S. 24 for eight hours Tuesday.

BUENA VISTA, Colo. -

Authorities in Chaffee County spent the day investigating what was first believed to be an improvised explosive device in downtown Buena Vista on Tuesday, only to later find the device was harmless.

The device was found just before 7:30 a.m. by a woman who is a custodian at the town's library.  The device was in the bed of her pickup truck parked between the library and the town's police station.

Authorities said the woman, who wasn't identified, didn't see the device in her truck when she arrived at 7 a.m.  However, when she returned to her truck after realizing her keys were locked inside, she saw the device and notified police.

"She's not a suspect," said Laura Smith, public information officer for the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office.  "She didn't know anything about the device.  We don't have a suspect or morive at this point."

The Chaffee County Sheriff's Office initially described the device as a mortar connected by wires to a cell phone, and said it was an improvised explosive device.  But an X-ray of the device revealed the mortar was an artillery practice round. 

A 1-mile stretch of US 24 was closed on the east side of town as were some nearby side streets.  All of those closed streets have since re-opened.

Homes and businesses within 100 yards of the truck were evacuated.  Those evacuation orders have been lifted.  Many business owners lost a day of work and sales because of the bomb threat.

"It's disappointing," said David Haynes, the manager of a nearby restaurant.  "It didn't affect me that much because I'm not open for the season yet.  But it did affect others.  A gas station couldn't get refueled because the tanker couldn't get past the roadblocks.  If I were one of those business owners, I'd be very upset.  I hope this was just a joke and that someone wasn't really trying to hurt people."

The Chaffee County Times reported that Buena Vista schools were locked down as a precaution.

The Colorado Springs Police Department's regional bomb squad assisted with the investigation.  

Snipers were posted on nearby rooftops because investigators believed that whoever placed the device in the truck may have been in the area and watching the law enforcement response.

The Bureau of Alcoho, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will take the device to its lab for further testing.

The Buena Vista Police Department is in charge of the ongoing investigation.

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