- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

A man with a gun, a knife and a spray bottle of an unknown fluid threw a scare into dozens of passengers on a Metro train yesterday, a day when similar incidents kept Americans on edge across a good part of the nation.

When Metro police tried to apprehend the man for failing to pay his fare at the Southern Avenue station in Temple Hills, he fired his gun and sprayed several passengers before he was subdued.

Prince George's fire and police officials said early tests of the fluid indicate it was probably a "cleaning solution." A container of another liquid the suspect dropped during the scuffle is believed to have contained perfume.

Police said the man, who also wielded a 12-inch knife, mumbled something in Arabic.

Thirty-five passengers on the Green Line car reported nausea, headaches and other symptoms. They were decontaminated by scrubbing at the station, which was closed for four hours, and taken to nearby hospitals.

Police said pepper spray used to subdue the suspect probably caused the passengers' illnesses. All were treated and released. No one was hit by the bullets fired by the suspect, identified by police as Kenneth Ranger, 23, of Capitol Heights. He has been charged with attempted murder and is being detained at an unnamed hospital.

Police and medics responded to several false reports of contamination in restaurants, offices and banks in Florida, Kentucky and Ohio in the wake of the anthrax death of a man in Florida, setting off fears, unfounded, of widespread terrorism by biological and chemical weapons.

In Melbourne, Fla., a man was escorted from his home by workers in biohazard suits and taken to Holmes Regional Medical Center. He called police to report he had opened a letter containing a powdery substance about two months ago and now was feeling sick.

• In Covington, Ky., police sealed off an Internal Revenue Service office building and put 200 workers under quarantine after an employee opened a letter containing an unidentified white power. He was later scrubbed down by a hazardous materials team.

• In Cincinnati, a doctor's surgery was interrupted and his office evacuated after staffers identified what they thought was a "suspicious-looking" envelope. The workers were scrubbed, but it turned out to be a false alarm.

• In Prince William County, Va., a man who may have been to the Florida office of the anthrax victim went to the emergency room at Prince William Hospital in Manassas on Monday night with what was first suspected of being "a possible case of anthrax." The symptoms resembled the flu and officials later determined that it was not anthrax.

• In Boca Raton, Fla., FBI agents and health officials checked the ventilation system and all mail circulated in the quarantined offices of the Sun and two other supermarket tabloids where the man who died of anthrax worked, and where a co-worker was exposed to the bacteria.

The mail is being targeted because, among other reasons, there have been published reports that before the Sept. 11 attacks a strange "love letter" containing a powdery substance and a Star of David charm was mailed to singer Jennifer Lopez in care of the Sun.

• Investigators have found no further sign of anthrax in the Florida newspaper office, health officials said.

Hundreds of men and women are waiting for test results to learn whether they were exposed to anthrax at the Boca Raton headquarters of American Media Inc., publishers of the tabloids. Several worked closely with Robert Stevens, 63, the editor who died of anthrax Friday. Investigators say anthrax bacteria were later found on his computer keyboard and in the nasal passages of mailroom employee Ernesto Blanco, 73, who is in good condition at a Florida hospital.

The strain that infected Mr. Stevens, FBI sources said, was apparently produced in a laboratory since it does not match any known naturally occurring version. Investigators have not found evidence of terrorism, although the manufactured nature of the bacteria suggests criminal activity.

Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, said he questioned Jeffrey Koplan, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, on that point, and Dr. Koplan said the chance that the anthrax was not deliberately introduced to the building lies between "nil and none."

Dr. Landis Crockett, director of disease control for the Florida Department of Health, said, "The chances are one in a billion to have two anthrax cases. There then would be another explanation, and that would be that foul play would be suspected."

August Gribbin contributed to this report.

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