Breaking: Substance found in McCarthy tests positive for ricin
The substance found in McCarthy Tuesday tested positive for ricin, according to an email from Georgetown Police Chief Jay Gruber. He says there is “no immediate threat,” and that no ricin exposure has been reported.
“[A]nyone exposed to ricin would have presented with severe symptoms within 24 hours,” the email reads. “This window has passed and there are no reports consistent with ricin exposure.”The FBI is handling the investigation. Law enforcement agents are holding a student “subject” in the case who is a resident of the sixth floor of McCarthy.
Vox spoke to an RA in another building who initially called the authorities and alerted them to the possibility of a dangerous substance in McCarthy. This RA, a friend of the subject, contacted authorities after a conversation with the subject now being questioned by the FBI, in which “he may have indicated he intended to use the substance on another student.” This RA was not authorized to speak on the matter and did not want to issue any statement on the record while the investigation is active.
The student subject is currently not a suspect in the case. FBI Spokeswoman Jacqueline Maguire said that the FBI is not ready to name any suspects as of early this evening: “We wouldn’t identify a subject until there were public charges.”
The FBI confirmed that, while the substance tested positive for ricin, surface areas around the dorm did not. Ricin is a naturally occurring protein found in castor beans, which when purified, can be highly toxic. It is possible to manufacture ricin outside of a lab setting. Less than two milligrams is enough to kill a fully grown human.
“We did swabs of all sorts of surfaces in the area and those all came back negative,” Maguire said. “It’s very unlikely that it [the lab test] is a false-positive at this point.”
According to law enforcement authorities, this event appears to be an isolated incident. Maguire said that “there is no terrorism nexus” but declined to comment on how the ricin was manufactured or obtained while the investigation is active.
Students forced to live off campus last night because of the investigation are now able to return to their dorms in McCarthy. The University has hired contractors who specialize in the decontamination of biological threat agents to clean the dorm room where the substance was found.
Connor Jones contributed to this report.