Ricin found at Vegas motel

Officials: Finding of toxin not believed to be terror-related


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UPDATED 2:48 p.m. EST 2-29-08

LAS VEGAS --

Police say a man is in critical condition after the deadly toxin ricin was found in his Las Vegas motel room. Las Vegas police Lt. Lewis Roberts says the man has been in a coma since he was found in his room at the Extended Stay America Motel on Thursday.

He's one of seven people hospitalized after the ricin was discovered. Police have said most were examined as a precaution.

Roberts says police don't think foul play is involved, and the FBI says the case doesn't appear to be terrorism-related, but authorities aren't sure why the man had a vial of powdered ricin in his room.

Ricin is made from processing castor beans, and can be extremely lethal.

Learn more:
CDC facts page on Ricin

Previous story:

LAS VEGAS -- A substance found at a motel may be the deadly toxin ricin, but authorities said Friday they don't believe it was intended for a terrorist attack. Lab tests on the substance were pending and seven people were taken to hospitals as a precaution.

"This event does not appear to be terrorism related," FBI spokesman Richard Kolko in Washington said Friday morning. Kolko said the FBI was assisting local police in the investigation.

Police were called to the Extended Stay America Motel on Thursday and retrieved a package from the motel manager that was determined to be a chemical or controlled substance, Officer Ramon Denby said.

Two preliminary tests indicate it contained ricin, Denby said. Results from further tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a second local lab are expected later Friday, he said.

The man who brought the substance to the manager told police he found it in a suite and it did not belong to him, police Capt. Joseph Lombardo said at a news conference Thursday night. Lombardo did not identify the man.

"Ricin has no medical uses other than cancer research," Lombardo said. "An individual citizen other than being involved in cancer research or cancer prevention would not have any legal means or proper means of having that."

Police cordoned off the area and isolated the room where the substance was found.

Three motel employees and another person were quarantined and decontaminated at the site, then taken to hospitals for further testing, Denby said. All appeared to be in good condition, he said. Three police officers who had been exposed were also taken to hospitals.

Someone exposed to ricin shows signs of contamination in six to eight hours, Denby said.

Homeland Security officials joined local police in the investigation. Officials from the FBI, Las Vegas Health District, a hazardous materials team and the National Guard were also at the scene.

A woman who answered the phone at the Extended Stay America Motel declined to comment. The motel is several blocks west of the Las Vegas Strip.

Ricin is made from the waste left over from processing castor beans, and can be extremely lethal. As little as 500 micrograms, or about the size of the head of a pin, can kill a human, according to the CDC.


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