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Suspicious Book Bag Prompts Evacuation of Purdue University Rec Center

A student who allegedly left the book bag in the center is under investigation and is being treated at a medical facility.

The recreation center at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, was evacuated for a few hours earlier this week after a man who was acting suspiciously left a book bag behind in the center.

Authorities removed the package and determined it was harmless, but the man who allegedly left the book bag behind—a Purdue student—was undergoing medical treatment while prosecutors investigate the incident.

The evacuation of the France A. Cordova Recreation Center occurred at about 3:10 p.m. on Jan. 20. according to Brian Zink, associate director with the university's news service. Someone reported that a man acting suspiciously dropped a book bag inside the center and fled.

Police responding to the incident viewed video surveillance and interviewed witnesses to track down the man. They found him hiding in the recreation center's parking lot, determined he was a student at Purdue, and detained him for questioning.

Meanwhile, the university evacuated the center as a precaution, and the Tippecanoe County, IN, Sheriff's Department Bomb Detection Unit removed the book bag. Officers took it to an off-site location and determined its contents were harmless.

"Even though the package turned out to not be dangerous, everyone responded in precisely the way we would hope," Purdue Police Chief John Cox said in a news release. "Someone saw suspicious activity and took action to help ensure the safety of others.”

To alert those on campus of the evacuation, Purdue activated its emergency alert system, Zink said. Notifications are disseminated by text message, email, Twitter, web postings and pop-up messages on any desktop computer connected to Purdue's network.

Zink was unable to say how many people were in the rec center at the time of the incident, but said the facility was back in operation a little more than three hours after the evacuation.

Police are withholding the identity of the suspect while prosecutors investigate the incident, Cox said.

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