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Packages Sent to Covington Diocese Offices Turned Over to FBI

Covington Police and Fire departments responded to the Diocese of Covington's downtown offices on Madison Avenue late Wednesday afternoon after the receipt of suspicious packages.

Those packages, which arrived via a local courier, have been turned over to the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for investigation, Fire Chief Mark Pierce said. 

The Cincinnati Fire Department's Explosive Ordinance Device Unit were deployed to make sure the packages weren't dangerous, Pierce said.

The arrival of the packages, which closed one of Covington's busiest intersections, which sits in the shadow of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, came a day after the Diocese of Covington stated that a third party investigator had been brought in to evaluate the behavior of Covington Catholic students during encounters with Black Hebrew Israelite agitators and a Native American elder in Washington, D.C. over the weekend.

The episode became an international news event, with President Donald J. Trump arguing that Cov Cath students had been treated unfairly by the news media. Early characterization of the encounter suggested that students from the Park Hills school had disrupted the Native elder's drumming with one student blocking his path forward.

The moment was captured in a short video that swiftly went vital on social media.

Longer videos later emerged showing the Black Hebrew Israelites hurling homophobic and racist epithets towards the students who responded by performing their well-known school chants, typically seen at sporting events. The Native American, Nathan Phillips, then approached with his drum in what he said was an effort to diffuse a tense situation.

Following a weekend in which the story evolved and polarized social media users, Covington Catholic High School canceled classes on Tuesday. Students returned to school on Wednesday. 

The Diocese of Covington and the school condemned the students' behavior on Saturday, going so far as to say that expulsion would be a possibility. On Tuesday, both announced that the third party investigator would be brought in.

Supporters of the students responded angrily at the diocese and the school for what they called a rush to judgment and unfair condemnation.

On Wednesday afternoon, a local courier dropped off packages at the diocesan offices at 1125 Madison Avenue. Because the packages were neither recognized nor expected, church officials evacuated the building and called 911.

The block was shut down by 4:30 p.m. and the bomb squad was called in.

“We were just erring on the side of caution,” Pierce said.

The bomb squad used a mobile X-ray device to examine the packages and determined they weren’t dangerous, Pierce said. One turned out to have been ordered by a Diocesan official, but others are of unknown origin and intent, he said.

Pierce declined to reveal what was in the packages but they have been turned over to federal authorities for investigation, he said.

The scene was officially cleared at 6:37 p.m., and traffic resumed on Madison Avenue resume.

-Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher, with new details provided by the City of Covington
Photo: Emergency responders on the scene on Wednesday (RCN)