This story has been updated.
(Enlarge) A county bomb squad technician checks out a suspected bomb in Towson in front of the Old Courthouse on Monday. A toilet, with a cell phone attached to it along with writing and news articles, was found on the sidewalk in front of the Courthouse Gardens entrance along Washington Avenue. Streets were closed to traffic as police checked it out, but it proved to be harmless. (Photo by Brendan Cavanaugh)
An actual toilet left in front of the Old Courthouse in Towson led police to close roads about a block in every direction in Monday morning — but the toilet turned out not to be a bomb.
Police responded shortly after 8 a.m. to a suspected bomb on the sidewalk in front of the Old Courthouse, about 20 feet from Washington Avenue.
A security guard at the courthouse saw the toilet and notified police, according to Lt. Robert McCullough, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department.
“The suspect in this case clearly left the items in such a fashion that a reasonable person would suspect it’s a dangerous device,” McCullough said.
The white ceramic toilet “contained some type of electronic device, along with a cell phone and some notes,” he said. “Our standard procedure is to take every precaution.”
From a block away, the toilet appeared to be adorned with a scrap of newspaper, as well as a piece of cardboard with a message written on it.
According to the Towson Patch, one of the notes read: "We, the undersigned, are supporters of Duane Gerald Davis (Shorty)." The note identified Davis as a "well respected" area resident, calling on the city of Zion, Ill., to "conduct a complete and impartial investigation" into Davis' son's death in 2006, Patch reported.
The Facebook profile for Duane G. Davis lists him as a Baltimore resident originally from Zion and the owner of Shorty's Underground Pit Beef Shack in Upperco. Reached at his restaurant Monday afternoon, Davis said he was not involved in leaving the toilet at the courthouse.
"I don't know nothing about it," he said.
But he has auctioned off toilets to raise money for the homeless for years, Davis said. Police CommissionerFrederick H. Bealefeld III, U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and the American Visionary Art Museum are among the many owners of his creations, according to Davis.
"They're parting gifts," he said. "A toilet ain't racist, it don't care who sits on it, it don't care who uses it."
Davis then cut the conversation short to head to court. He said he is renouncing his American citizenship and leaving to "whatever country will take me."
The individual responsible for leaving the toilet could be charged with crimes related to placing a lookalike explosive device in a public space, McCullough said.
McCullough didn’t share the content of the notes on the toilet. Police do not generally reveal the contents of notes involved in potential crimes, he said.
“It’s unknown what the suspect’s motives were in this case,” he said.
Throughout downtown Towson, parking was difficult and cars kept approaching the police tape and having to turn around.
A man who worked at Charles Schwab at Chesapeake and Washington avenues watched from the upper levels of a nearby parking garage, waiting to see when he could get into his office. He’d called one of his paralegals, who lived in the city, and told her to stay home and have an early lunch because they couldn’t get in to their building, he said.
Other people stood behind police tape on West Pennsylvania Avenue watching a bomb squad technician in a thick, olive-green protective suit approach the toilet around 11 a.m.
He eventually tipped the toilet over and flashed a thumbs-up to colleagues a half-block away.
A remote-controlled bomb-squad robot and bomb-sniffing dog were also used earlier in an attempt to determine if the toilet contained an explosive device.
“Our hazardous device team, working with police investigators, investigated the situation and found that there was no danger,” McCullough said.
Police haven’t made any arrests, but they have a suspect, McCullough said around 12:30 p.m.
As for the toilet, McCullough said “it’s been seized as evidence along with all the other materials.”
By noon, the bomb squad truck and police road blocks had cleared out, and downtown Towson returned to business as usual.The Baltimore Sun contributed to this story.
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