Schools forced to lock doors as suspicious device found in southwest Topeka

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A suspicious device found in southwest Topeka locked the doors at two Topeka Schools.

Topeka Police say the device found just after noon Thursday near SW 33rd St. and SW Westview Rd. Topeka USD 501 Director of School Safety Ron Brown said it was a pressure cooker.

"It was a pressure cooker with some wires coming out of it, sitting on top of a trash can. That looked pretty suspicious and in this day in age, with what we know about pressure cookers and how they can be utilized as an explosive device, I thought they (police) were very prudent in their response today," said Brown.

It caused the shutdown of several local streets and forced Shaner and Avondale West schools into "secure campus" status. That meant classes continued inside, but no one was allowed to walk out the front doors.

"The children aren't frightened and no one is the wiser because of that. They continue with the normal school day, but we put officers on the perimeter outside to protect the school," said Brown.

The pressure cooker was found the same week as threats made to schools around the country. Schools in Los Angeles, New York City, Houston, Texas, and Broward, Florida, received emails that they would be attacked. So far, investigators have found no signs of any danger.

"Based on the information we have, this was a very generic piece of writing sent to a number of different places simultaneously, and also written in a fashion that suggests that it's not plausible," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

However, the seriousness of these incidents remains a concern closer to home.

"I think what it does more than anything else is that it keeps us reminded that we need to be prepared. That we need to be ready in any event," said Brown.

A viewer told 13 NEWS and said there were bomb squad vehicles in the area and several streets were closed.

According to a release police sent Thursday afternoon, the Topeka Police Explosive Ordinance Unit investigated the device and determined it was inert.

The device was taken from the location around 2 p.m. and both schools went back to normal.