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Suspicious package in Niagara Falls was not a bomb

The suspicious package found Monday in a Niagara Falls city parking lot was not an explosive police determined after a remote controlled robot was used to probe the unattended backpack.

Police re-opened the parking lot adjacent to the Sheraton at the Falls Hotel shortly before 5 p.m., about 5 hours after a passerby first contacted 911 to report a suspicious package.

“In this day and age, and the threats we live under, in our opinion, this was absolutely and appropriate response,” said Niagara Falls Police Chief E. Bryan DalPorto. “Especially in a tourist-based city like Niagara Falls, we certainly could be targeted and we are always vigilant.”

The incident shows how nervous the public has become since an improvised explosive device detonated Saturday morning near the boardwalk in Seaside Park, N.J., a bomb exploded on a Manhattan street Saturday night, injuring 29 people, and another pressure-cooker explosive device that had not detonated was discovered in Manhattan. A suspect in those bomb incidents was shot and arrested Monday by police in Linden, N.J.

In Niagara Falls, the backpack was found left near an electrical substation in the lot. Shortly before 4 p.m., a robot moved the package away from the utility box and photos were taken of its contents. Police said that no threats have been made or reported in connection with the discovery of the package.

The backpack contained personal items, including a cellphone, DalPorto said.

Police had cordoned off the parking lot and closed one block of 3rd Street to traffic, between Wendel Way and Niagara Street, across from the Seneca Office Building and close to the Rainbow Bridge and Niagara Falls State Park. Niagara Falls police investigated, and a State Police bomb disposal unit and the Erie County Sheriff's Office Bomb Squad assisted at the scene. Niagara County Sheriff's deputies were also there.

Brenda Donohue,who is on Livingston County's Board of Supervisors was attending a meeting of local government leaders at the Sheraton, said she spotted the backpack by the electrical substation and called 911 at about 11:40 a.m.

Donohue, who is the supervisor for the Town of Conesus, told The Buffalo News that she was pulling into the lot when she first noticed the black backpack with tags on it. She said the backpack appeared to have ID tags on it. She noted that it was up against a six foot by six foot square electrical substation. She knew it was "not a good combination."

The 911 dispatcher asked Donohue if she had looked inside the backpack to which she replied: "No!"

She parked her car, got out and called 911. Donohue said she decided to leave her car in the spot. "I didn't want to leave the parking spot because someone else could pull in and it might blow up," she said. Donohue remained in the area and was watching the police investigate Monday afternoon. She felt bad about the fuss that her call had created, she said, but noted "we have all to be vigilant now."

Employees of the Seneca Office Building were being told to use the 4th Street entrance while police continued to investigate.

Police were not allowing people who parked their vehicles in the lot to get to their cars.

Police investigate a suspicious backpack in a parking lot in Niagara Falls Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Police investigate a suspicious backpack in a parking lot in Niagara Falls Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

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