Two Bank of America employees go to hospital after opening suspicious letter

Albertson's and the Bank of America branch inside the supermarket have been reopened after a hazardous materiels incident sent two bank employees to the hospital and prompted an emergency response involving Taft Police, Kern County firefighters, an ambulance, hazardous materials teams and even the FBI.

No trace of any hazardous material was found in a preliminary investigation of the scene, Taft Chief of Police Ed Whiting said as police and hazardous materials teams left the scene at about 3 p.m, nearly 3 hours after the incident started.

But there is still a bit of a mystery.

Two bank employees, Sherry Smith and Pam Mitchell, were affected.

They opened a letter addressed to the bank, Whiting said, and were stricken.

"Upon opening the letter they became nauseous and ill," Whiting said.

Police, firefighters and an ambulance responded.

The letter was contained.

The store was locked down and for a time no one was allowed to enter or leave.

Hazardous materials response teams from the Kern County Fire Department and Kern County Department of Public Health were summoned as well as the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Smith and Lewis were examined and at first declined treatment or transport.

Later, however, both went to Mercy Southwest Hospital by ambulance to be examined, KCFD Battalion chief John Savarese said.

Both women were conscious and alert and in no apparent distress, Whiting said.

Hazardous material teams swabbed the letter and envelope and the preliminary test showed no hazardous material, Whiting said.
But the letter than came inside the envelope is a bit of a mystery.

Whiting called it "suspicious"

"The letter itself contained some unusual writing. Incoherent is the best way I can describe it," Whiting said.

He also called it "incoherent to rambling."

The letter will be preserved and a copy turned over to Taft Police for more investigation to find out who sent it.

Whiting said the FBI was called in because of the nature of the incident.

"Any time you get a suspicious letter like this in today's world you want to make sure you have a sufficient response," Whiting said.