Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer was back on the job Tuesday morning following a harrowing incident that took place less than 24 hours earlier in the same office.
It was about 11:30 a.m. Monday morning when after opening an envelope the department received by mail that Palmer suddenly noticed a burning sensation on his arms and forehead.
“I had a metallic taste in my mouth and my lips were numb,” Palmer told the Blue Mountain Eagle.
The letter, he said, appeared to be nothing more than political ramblings and, judging from the envelope, appeared to be regular mail, nothing particularly suspicious about it. However, Palmer didn’t take the time to read it, instead sealing it in an evidence bag, washing his hands and having his wife drive him to Blue Mountain Hospital in John Day. Later that afternoon, he would learn as others did this was not a local isolated event. Other counties throughout Oregon, including several Eastern Oregon counties, reported receiving similar mysterious envelopes through the mail targeting primarily county courthouses and sheriffs’ departments.
“There wasn’t any ‘white powder’ (as reported) or anything I could see, other than the letter,” said Palmer, now in his fourth term as sheriff.
According to Palmer, no other individuals were taken to the hospital, although two workers in the same office where he opened the envelope were later decontaminated at the scene by hazmat crews. Inmates and other workers at the facility were unaffected.
Palmer was released from the hospital at 6:30 p.m. after being observed for nearly seven hours. Hospital staff also checked his wife’s vital signs to make sure she was not affected. Hazmat crews on location at the Grant County Sheriff and Criminal Justice Facility in Canyon City, which was cordoned off most of the afternoon, finished their work shortly after 6 p.m.
What the substance may have been that triggered Palmer’s initial symptoms is under investigation. The FBI and Oregon State Police are taking the lead in the ongoing statewide investigation and reportedly have a “person of interest” they are following up on.
For his part, Palmer is just glad to be back on the job, despite “the phone ringing off the hook” and media attention.
“I just wish whoever did this would step forward … so we can move forward,” said Palmer.