Bomb scare forces evacuation of postal complex in Kearny

U.S. postal inspectors are continuing to investigate who is responsible for a threat to blow up the North Jersey Logistics & Distribution Center at 1200 Harrison Ave. on Friday, July 27.

Various law enforcement agencies, along with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, converged at the Kearny-based facility at around 9:30 a.m. after postal officials discovered graffiti on a bathroom wall inside the building warning that a bomb was set to go off that day, according to U.S. Postal Service spokesman George Flood.

Flood could provide no further details about the message.

At that point, Flood said, postal officials “launched into an evacuation process” involving “225 postal employees who were on the clock” at the Kearny facility.

Initially, employees were seen standing outside, across the street from the Harrison Ave. building, but Flood said that because of the extreme heat and humidity, the Postal Service opted to transport many of the workers to the Dominick V. Daniels Processing & Distribution Facility at 850 Newark Turnpike, about a mile further east.

Among the police agencies responding were canine units from Essex County Police, Bergen County Police and Hudson County Sheriff, along with dog-sniffing details from NJ Transit and Amtrak, according to officials.

Members of the Jersey City Police EMS Bomb Squad and Kearny Police also were on the scene.

Flood said it took about an hour and a half for police and dogs to go through the main postal building, the parking lot and tractor trailers parked on the site before issuing an “all-clear” at about 1 p.m.

A complete probe of the incident will likely take “months” before any findings are reported, Flood said.

The Harrison Ave. facility is one of 49 postal locations being considered for possible “consolidation” as part of a nationwide downsizing planned by the financially challenged Postal Service.

“We’ve put a hold on the Kearny site right now,” Flood said, “but it’s still on a list of facilities to be studied.”

In another disturbing incident that happened on July 19 at 6 p.m, police were called to a rooming house at 344 Kearny Ave., at Halstead Ave., on a report of a shooting. Upon arrival, police found James Hamilton, 21, a resident of the house, lying on the sidewalk in front of the location and bleeding badly from the face as a result of what police characterized as an accidental “self-inflicted” wound.

Police said they traced a trail of blood leading back to the rooming house and to a second-floor apartment rented to Hamilton where they found copious amounts of blood on the floor and streaks of blood on the walls.

By this time, police said, a crowd had gathered outside the building and a man identified by police as Ariel Cantillo, who, police said, was visiting Hamilton at the time of the shooting and had blood on him, shared information about the incident and the weapon involved. Cantillo, 21, of Kearny, was charged with tampering with evidence and possession of a firearm. Cantillo, who also had a contempt of court warrant outstanding from Kearny, is being held in Hudson County Jail on $50,000 bail pending court action.

At about 6:30 p.m., police said Det. Ray Lopez recovered the weapon believed to have been used in the accidental shooting after climbing a tree near the rooming house onto the roof of an adjacent garage where he spotted a handgun, later identified as a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver. Police said the gun was empty but there were signs that it had been fired recently.

Police Chief John Dowie said that as the victim was being transported to the hospital, he told a police officer that he’d shot himself by accident.

Police said the bullet went through Hamilton’s jaw and out a nasal cavity, then passed into the dropped ceiling of Hamilton’s apartment and lodged in some framing. As of last week, police had yet to interview Hamilton who remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition, with his jaw wired shut, and haven’t yet criminally charged him. But, as a minimum, police said Hamilton will likely face charges of discharge of a firearm within 300 feet of a residential area and reckless endangerment. Police are still investigating how Hamilton acquired the weapon. And in another incident on July 21, police said Officer Chris Medina narrowly avoided serious injury in a confrontation with a motorist at 9:15 p.m. in the midtown area. Police said the incident began when Medina, who was on patrol duty, had to brake hard to avoid being struck by a 2005 Toyota wagon that cut him off, turning from Quincy Ave. onto Belgrove Drive, then proceeding at a high rate of speed to N. Midland Ave. off Terrace Place, where Medina exited his car and approached the driver and detected a strong odor of alcohol from the driver who began cursing and suddenly cut his wheel to the left and accelerated, jumping the curb in the process and swerving onto the sidewalk, then continued down to Passaic Ave. and headed south.

Medina broadcast an alert including a description of the vehicle. At 10 p.m. Medina found the empty vehicle parked on Devon St. and learned that it was registered to someone on the block. Police said Offi cers Ben Wuelfi ng and John Travalino went to that location, and, after being admitted inside, heard someone shouting from behind a closed door, “Tell the police I’m not home!” A bit later, a man partly opened the door, cursed the cops and slammed the door shut. Finally, police said, the man emerged, was positively identifi ed by Medina, but then became combative and had to be forcibly subdued by the offi cers who used MC spray on him.

The man arrested, Wilmer Quispe, 41, of Hawthorne, was issued summonses alleging DWI, failure to submit to a breathalyzer test, disregard of a traffic signal, failure to display documents, reckless driving and driving while suspended. He was also charged with aggravated assault on a police offi cer, possession of a weapon (the vehicle) and obstruction of justice. Police said Quispe was also wanted on two warrants out of East Newark and Newark.

– Ron Leir

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