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No bomb found in search at Moffitt Cancer Center

An unclaimed purse was found, but yielded no danger, after authorities searched the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in response to a bomb threat Saturday morning.

No hazardous material was found after authorities conducted a search of the purse and surrounding area, said University Police (UP) Law Enforcement Captain Robert Stahle.

The purse was found in the second floor lobby of the Moffitt Center, Stahle said. Authorities roped off the lobby area while the bomb squad used cameras to search the purse.

“As we do with any bomb threat response, we pair up with the people who know the venue, who know the area,” he said.

UP officials were stationed around the outside parameter of the building while the bomb squad investigated the suspicious purse. Stahle said it appeared the purse had been there since yesterday but it was necessary for officials to take a “precautionary measure” because it was zipped.

“If we find something like that and can’t get anyone to claim ownership, we can’t take the chance,” he said.

Stahle said Moffitt has the purse in lost and found and hasn’t been claimed yet.

The front entrance of Moffitt was closed, but no one was evacuated from the building and no roads were closed.

“Because the questionable package or purse was located in a publicly-accessible area, fortunately, we were able to cord off that area with the safety parameter that met the needs of the bomb squad without having an impact on business in Moffitt,” Stahle said.

At 8:45 a.m., Moffitt received a bomb threat by phone, but it “lacked specificity,” Stahle said. Moffitt security contacted UP at 9:11 a.m. Stahle said UP had six officers on the scene within one minute.

Tampa Police Department, several units from Tampa Fire Rescue, including the Incident Hazardous Team also arrived at the scene.

A MoBull text-message alert was sent at 10:40 a.m. that stated, “USF Tampa: There is a bomb threat at the Moffitt Cancer Center. Avoid the area until further notice.”

Authorities called the search off at noon and another MoBull alert was sent that stated, “USF Tampa: A thorough search was conducted at Moffitt Cancer Center and no bomb was located. The location is safe to resume normal activities.”

Stahle said this case is an ongoing investigation, but it “will be brought to a quick conclusion.”

“We’ve had quite a few of these in our jurisdiction,” he said.

Stahle said the last time Moffitt experienced a bomb threat was about six months ago.

“That’s really an anomaly,” he said. “Of all the years that Moffitt has been a part of the University campus, it is extremely rare for it to occur in here.”