ROCK HILL — A large box packaged with wrapping paper and a big, red bow that students found Thursday morning in front of a church near Winthrop University was empty, police said after calling in a bomb squad and closing off surrounding roads and access points.
At 7:45 a.m., at least two Winthrop students noticed a large, brown Christmas box in the front parking lot of Global Outreach Ministries on Ebenezer Avenue, said Rock Hill Police Executive Officer Mark Bollinger. The students called Winthrop police, informing them that they did not see the box there on Wednesday.
Winthrop Police notified Rock Hill Police because the box was found off campus within city limits, Bollinger said.
University and Rock Hill police officers, along with officials from York County's Office of Emergency Management, Rock Hill's hometown security director and the Rock Hill Police Bomb Squad swarmed the area, blocking off several roads and asking nearby residents to stay in their homes.
Police used a bomb robot and X-rays, which showed the box "to be empty," Bollinger said. The roads were reopened by 10 a.m. and residents were notified of no impending danger.
Bomb authorities have protocols that, depending on the size of the box and possible blast radius, would mandate evacuations, Bollinger said.
If police determined that explosives were in the box, they would have ordered evacuations, he said.
Students were able to walk onto campus, though several were redirected around a parking lot the Rutledge Building.
Police attempted to reach someone at Global Outreach Ministries, but were unsuccessful, Bollinger said. By Thursday evening, the box was gone and efforts to reach church personnel were unsuccessful.
Last month, police swarmed the post office between West Black and Wilson streets after employees found a package sitting on a table in the offices main lobby before the post office opened. Because packages are not allowed to be left out, authorities treated it as suspicious. Police eventually learned that it was a book.
In April, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney was escorted from Rock Hill High School after officials found seven 9-volt batteries taped together with a green wire stretching from one end of the device to the other sitting on one of the rocks in front of the school.
Mulvaney had been speaking to students about civics when the device was discovered. Police determined the device was not an explosive. After finishing his speech, Mulvaney was led away from the school by security officials.