SUTTONS BAY — Authorities remain mum on what recently lured 60 federal agents to Leelanau County, but concerns remain as rumors spread about potentially hazardous materials found in the two raids.
“I’ve had 40 phone calls on it. Literally, I’ve had 40 phone calls on it today,” said Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich on Friday. “The FBI is going to release that when they do.”
FBI agents in HAZMAT suits searched properties in Suttons Bay and Leland Township on Oct. 4. Sealed warrants issued by the United States District Court of Western Michigan appear connected with simultaneous raids conducted in the Houston, Texas area on three properties owned by an art appraiser with a financial interest in the Leelanau County properties.
Texas media reports fanned local and online speculation that the investigation centered on a man who may have purchased chemicals used in the production of explosives or nerve gas. But no arrests have been made, so warrants and affidavits remain under seal.
Borkovich said agents found and disposed of hazardous products found on the Suttons Bay property on 504 N. St. Mary’s St. Those items included potentially explosive materials that were detonated in a “remote location” in Leelanau County, he said.
“From my perspective they disposed of the products safely,” Borkovich said. “They called in HAZMAT and turned (them) over to a waste management company. They didn’t leave anything there.”
Materials also were detonated in the Houston-area raids, according to Texas media reports.
Jim Cooper lives across the alley from the Suttons Bay property where agents engaged in an all-day search through a house and garage. He frequently saw the young man who lived in the house over the summer wearing protective gear, including gloves and a face mask, but he hasn’t heard from investigators or seen anyone at the property since the raid.
“As Garrison Keiller said, it’s been a quiet day in Suttons Bay,” Cooper said. “ ... Certainly we had some concern when we hear about sarin (gas) and other things, but if it had been there before I’m certain it’s been cleaned up.”
Borkovich said he’s satisfied the public isn’t at risk.
“My big concern is there any potential for cause of injury or contamination at this time? From what I can see there’s not,” he said.
Bob Beeckman, supervisory special agent with FBI Detroit field office, said he’s “satisfied” there’s currently no danger to the public, but wouldn’t say whether that was the case before the raids.
“I’d have to defer comment on that,” he said.