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Strange box causes scare at clinic, 6/7/1998

By Editorial Staff
Published June 7, 1998

By R. Norman Moody, FLORIDA TODAY

MELBOURNE – The Brevard County sheriff’s bomb squad, using a remote-controlled robot, destroyed a suspicious electronic box behind the Aware Woman Center for Choice on Saturday.
“It’s not a bomb,” sheriff’s Cpl. J.R. Hansen said after using a shotgun mounted on the robot to blow apart the box. “It was an electrical component.”

Melbourne police were called to the clinic at 1564 Dixie Way about 5:30 p.m. after a box with a protruding cable was spotted on a support beam of a wooden fence surrounding a large metal trash container.

“Personnel from the Aware Woman Clinic saw a device that looked suspicious to them,” Melbourne police Sgt. Kevin Fain said. “It was sitting on top of the wooden fence. Their security personnel was making their normal rounds when they saw the device.”

The box, which measured about 8 inches by 6 inches and was 4 inches high, was found on the north end of the clinic’s parking lot. The box had a short wire that resembled, or may have been, a TV cable, deputies said.

The bomb squad used the robot to pick up the device and X-ray it. The box then was destroyed by a shotgun mounted on the robot and controlled from a truck parked nearby. The pieces were examined and collected as evidence by Melbourne police officers.

Firefighters stood by as the box was removed. Nearby residents were not evacuated.

Several employees were at the clinic during the incident but could not be reached for comment moments after police cleared the scene.

In the January 1997 bombing of an Atlanta abortion clinic, one of two explosive devices was placed near a trash container in the parking lot of that clinic.

Aware Woman increased security after the Atlanta bombing and another at a Birmingham, Ala., clinic in January.

Security was heightened at the clinic again after acid was poured at the entrances to five abortion clinics in Miami.

Aware Woman was thrust into national awareness in 1994 when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling created a “ 36-foot buffer zone around the clinic which had been the site of dozens of protests and hundreds of arrests.

Traces of a blue line mark the buffer zone in front of the clinic on Dixie Way, which police blocked off Saturday afternoon while the bomb squad worked.

“We just take it seriously like any other suspicious device anywhere,” Fain said. “We have been a little more attentive because of what’s going on in Orlando.”

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