The Missoula Police Department and the University of Montana Police are investigating a report that a small amount of potassium cyanide, a highly-toxic substance, was removed from a University of Montana research laboratory.
They say that the material is a white powder occupying less than half of a clear glass vial with a white lid. They believe the vial was possibly discarded somewhere within the area of Orange to Hickory streets and Craig Lane to South 6th Street West.
Both Missoula PD and UM Police say officers have searched the area but have not recovered the vial, adding it is uncertain that the vial was discarded. They said that they want to alert residents and those who may be in the area as a precaution.
Anyone who believes they have found the substance is being advised not to handle it and to call 9-1-1 immediately.
Below is a letter that was sent out to students, faculty and staff at the University of Montana regarding the incident:
To our Campus Community Members,
You may have seen the alert issued jointly by Missoula and UM Police Departments concerning the possibility that a vial of toxic chemical (potassium cyanide) may have been removed from a UM research laboratory and disposed of improperly. Here's the language used in yesterday's announcement:
"The Missoula Police Department and the University of Montana Police Department are investigating the report of a small amount of a toxic substance (potassium cyanide) removed from a university research laboratory.
The material is a white powder, occupying less than half the volume of a clear glass vial with a white lid. It was possibly discarded in the area somewhere within the confines of Orange Street to Hickory and Cregg Lane to S. 6th Street W.
At this time it is not certain if the vial was discarded, but if it was, it could be in this area. Officers have checked the area but did not locate the vial.
As a precaution, law enforcement wants to alert residents and those who may be in the area. If located, contact 911 immediately and do not handle it.
This is an ongoing joint investigation by the Missoula and UM Police Departments, additional information will be shared as it becomes available."
I wanted to share this information with you because – though law enforcement has identified the area where they believe the material could potentially be –we cannot completely rule out the possibility that this vial could be on campus or in the vicinity. Please note the description from the announcement and, if you see something like this, alert UMPD.
Paula Short, Director of Communications