Suspicious package outside Columbia interfaith center contains accordion

Howard County Police called to investigate an unidentified brown leather suitcase outside of a Columbia interfaith center on Friday morning discovered it contained something unexpected: an accordion.

Police, along with officials from Fire and Rescue services and the state Fire Marshall bomb squad, arrived at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, located in the 7200 block of Cradlerock Way, shortly after 9:15 a.m. after someone reported seeing the suitcase.

The interfaith center, which houses 38 children in its day care center, was evacuated.

Fire Marshall officials taped off the center and created a perimeter around the center's playground, where the suitcase was left up against a tree.

Fire Marshall officials used a remote-controlled robot to inspect the package. Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said the package was deemed safe around 11 a.m.

Llewellyn said the owner of the accordion, which police confiscated, is unknown.

"We kept precautions because of the scheduled services (at the center) and the day care center," Llewellyn said. "It's pretty standard if we get a report. We just don't want to take chances."

Llewellyn said a person driving by the interfaith center called in the suspicious package. Facility manager Jim Stephens said he didn't know about the package until fire officials told him to evacuate the building.

Stephens said the building has video surveillance, but doubts that the footage will yield anything.

"I have a camera that looks out that way, but there is a tree blocking where the suitcase was," Stephens said.

Llewellyn didn't say if police would use the surveillance footage, but added that it doesn't appear to be a criminal matter.

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