Suspicious item investigation briefly closes 210 Freeway in Pasadena, Metro station

With nerves still rattled by an unfounded bomb threat targeting a Southland rail station, the discovery of a discarded jacket on the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena prompted a bomb squad response Wednesday, along with a commute-snarling freeway closure and the shutdown of an adjacent Gold Line station.

A man whose name has not been released but who is suspected of throwing the jacket on the freeway was later arrested.

The bomb squad was summoned shortly before 8:30 a.m. when something believed to be a suspicious package was spotted along the eastbound freeway median at Lake Avenue, adjacent to the Gold Line Lake station. Both sides of the 210 Freeway were closed down, creating a miles-long parking lot.

Some drivers stranded on the freeway turned off their engines and exited their vehicles while they passed the time.

"It's become like a community out here,'' one motorist told City News Service.

With the Gold Line station closed, buses shuttled passengers between the Allen and Memorial Park stations.

The sheriff's bomb squad eventually sent in a robot to examine the item. The robotic arm was used to pick up the item, which turned out to be a jacket. Sheriff's officials declared the item not to be a threat, and the freeway was reopened at about 10:45 a.m. The Lake Avenue on-ramp remained closed for a time, but finally re-opened around 11:10 a.m., according to authorities.

Trains resumed normal service, but Metro officials warned passengers to expect residual delays for a while.

LASD Transit Policing Division spokesman Ramon Montenegro told City News Service that cameras at the Gold Line station caught a man tossing the item onto the freeway near the station. The Pasadena Star-News reported that the man was taken into custody after struggling with deputies at the nearby Memorial
Park station.

The suspect is facing a charge of obstructing officers, but a background check revealed that he has $80,000 worth of warrants.

"He (the suspect) may be facing additional charges," Montenegro said.

The disruption came two days after a bogus tip warning about a possible "explosive device'' that would be detonated Tuesday at the Metro Red Line station on Lankershim Boulevard across from Universal Studios was phoned into authorities.

That tip, made from a pay phone reportedly used to communicate bogus threats in the past, was relayed to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force on Monday morning and led to a massive law-enforcement presence at rail stations throughout the area on Tuesday.

Authorities learned about the threat from someone in Australia who called a public safety line and provided information about the alleged plot.

Commuters who rely on Metro rail lines were met with heavy security Tuesday as local and federal authorities responded to the tip. The Universal City Station was heavily fortified, with barricades and a throng of sheriff's deputies and police officers wielding high-powered weapons.

Investigators eventually found no evidence to corroborate the warning of a possible bomb, the FBI announced Tuesday night, but security remained elevated on the rail system today.

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