- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Pepper spray was released in a downtown office building during yesterday afternoon’s lunch hour, but police called it an accident and stressed that it was not terrorism-related.

First responders, not sure what they were dealing with, initially treated it as a “mass casualty” incident. They sent two dozen emergency vehicles to the scene, established a triage center in a nearby park and closed several streets.

“There were two kids horsing around, and a boy pulled a chain around the girl’s neck and there must have been pepper spray or some kind of irritant in the container,” police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said. “Once it’s out, people inhale it and you’ve got a problem.”

The fire department assessed an estimated 130 people and treated five on the scene, spokesman Alan Etter said. One person was transported to a hospital with what he described as complications from asthma.

The spray was released inside a building at 1990 K St. NW, which extends a full city block south to I Street. It is alsoabout two blocks from the World Bank headquarters, which authorities last month said was a possible terror target.

Chief Ramsey characterized the incident as an accident and not a prank. He stressed it was not related to the Code Orange alert and did not present a general threat. But initial reports sent the stock market into a temporary dive, with traders fearing it was terrorism.

“It did show a breach of security, and the market has not fully discounted something happening here on our shores,” said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist with Cantor Fitzgerald in Truckee, Calif.

“We’re able to shrug off news from Iraq, but not necessarily something from our back yard,” Mr. Pado said. “I wouldn’t quite call this a panic,” he said, describing it as more of a “dramatic, knee-jerk reaction.” The market later recovered.

But terrorism fears weren’t limited to Wall Street.

“I had guys on their day off calling me, asking if they should come in,” D.C. police Lt. Jeffrey Herold said.

Authorities said no charges had been filed against the youngsters involved.

nAssociated Press writers Derrill Holly and Mark Hamrick contributed to this report.

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