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A 'suspicious device' at a Gaines Street construction site caused an evacuation. It was a piece of old mechanical equipment

A partially uncovered metal object stuck in the mud
Tallahassee Police Department
This is the object that shut down parts of Gaines Street Wednesday and led to road closures and evacuations.

The 900 block of Gaines Street was shuttered for hours Wednesday after a construction crew working in the area uncovered what law enforcement called a "suspicious device." The Tallahassee Online Police Statistics map, which reports calls in real-time, had a bomb symbol over the area, but, after a more than six-hour tense wait, a crew from the Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City determined the partially unearthed device, was actually a piece of old mechanical equipment.

The saga began around 9:48 a.m. Wednesday when the construction crew working the site partially unearthed what appeared to be an anvil-like object buried in the mud. Workers on the site reported what was then thought to be an "historical ordinance." Due to the object's age and physical condition experts were initially unable to figure out what it was.

As investigators sought to figure it out, an apartment building and other nearby residents were evacuated, and streets closed off.

A crew from Panama City’s Tyndall Air Force base arrived in Tallahassee around 3 p.m. to decipher the object's origins and determine whether it posed a threat. After inspection, the team determined the object was just a piece of old mechanical equipment and did not pose a threat, effectively diffusing the situation. The object was reburied.

In the interim hours speculation about what the device could be was rampant. Most observers suggested it was an unexploded World War II-era bomb, as the area had been a part of the now-defunct Dale Mabry Airfield, which trained pilots including some of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The field was decommissioned in 1946, and the land it sat on is now most of Tallahassee Community College, the city jail, and parts of West Gaines Street.

The idea of a likely bomb was not far-fetched: in 2016, an unexploded device dating back to that era in Tallahassee's history was found under a tree on Madison Street.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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