Terror or trash?

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A bomb-hunting robot from the Knoxville Police Department carefully approaches the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health on Clinch Avenue on Monday. Photo from KPD

It wasn’t clear if it was an act of terrorism or just some guy playing with trash behind a Knoxville abortion clinic, but authorities weren’t taking any chances.

After more than four hours spent deploying robots, x-rays and a cadre of highly trained bomb-disposal specialists, KPD officials concluded Monday there was no threat but were left scratching their heads at the odd behavior that had triggered the drama. 

The incident began at 8:11 a.m. Monday when officers responded to the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health on Clinch Avenue to check on a “possible suspicious package,” according to KPD spokesperson Scott Erland.

“Officers were advised by management of suspicious activity captured on surveillance video. In a review of surveillance video, an unknown man was seen dropping off a trash can behind the clinic, placing items from his personal belongings in the trash can and then leaving the scene,” Erland explained.

“Based on the suspicious nature of those circumstances and out of an abundance of caution, EOD personnel were requested at the scene and officers closed the area surrounding Clinch Avenue and 16th Street to pedestrian or motor vehicle through traffic,” he continued.

“EOD personnel conducted x-rays and deployed an EOD robot to determine if a dangerous or explosive device was left in the trash can. At around 12:40 p.m., EOD personnel cleared the package and determined it did not contain a dangerous device. The scene has since cleared and roads have reopened,” he said.

When asked if police had located the man who left the trash can, Erland replied: “We are going to try to identify the guy. No indication right now as to why he might have done that. It could have been completely innocent but the circumstances were suspicious enough to warrant our response.”

KPD vehicles at the scene of Monday’s bomb scare in the Fort Sanders neighborhood.
Police cordoned off several blocks in the Fort Sanders neighborhood while they investigated a suspicious package at an abortion clinic.

Published on May 3, 2022.