White powder mailed to woman ruled harmless

HOUSTON - A suspicious substance that led to a hospital's emergency room being shut down ended up being harmless, but investigators are trying to figure out who mailed the substance and why.

A West Columbia woman received an envelope at her home on Thursday that made her concerned. She took it to the West Columbia Police Department, where an officer took it in for testing.

"It appears it was mailed from Greece. There was no note with it," said Jeff Mink of the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office.

Detectives said the woman was not expecting the package.

A Brazoria County sheriff's deputy picked up the envelope and became ill, investigators said. Officials then decided that the package was a possible safety issue and decided that everyone needed to go to a hospital.

Twenty-two people were taken to Angleton Danbury Medical Center for decontamination. The hospital's emergency room was shut down to other patients during that process.

The substance ended up being an energy supplement.

"Not an illegal substance," Mink said. "It's not illegal to mail the material. With no intent to scare somebody, there's not a crime."

West Columbia's police chief said the incident will lead to changes in his department.

"I don't disagree with the way they handled it," Police Chief Michael Palmer said. "I think maybe we should have been more cautious, considering it was a bag of white substance."

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