CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The Hamilton County Courthouse is expected to reopen Wednesday after it was evacuated and closed Tuesday over a suspicious item that turned out to be a bottle of perfume shaped like a World War II-era hand grenade.
A woman going to a court appearance was stopped with the suitcase at a metal detector near the courthouse front doors just before 8:30 a.m., said Jim Knapp, chief of staff for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.
An X-ray determined the contents of the suitcase held what appeared to be a suspicious item. A bomb-sniffing dog got a "hit" on the suitcase.
Using a robotic machine, officials opened the suitcase and discovered the perfume bottle around noon, according to Sheriff Jim Neil. The bottle resembled a pineapple hand grenade used in World War II.
Neil said a scent outside the suitcase, such as fresh fertilizer or cosmetics, could have been what alerted the bomb-sniffing dog.
Hundreds of courthouse workers including judges and prosecutors; lawyers and defendants were evacuated from the county's main courthouse encompassing an entire city block along Main, Court and Sycamore streets and Central Parkway.
Federal counter-terrorism officials were also on the scene.
Cincinnati police shut down Main Street at Ninth Street. It reopened around 12:30 p.m.
"Without question" this was the biggest and longest evacuation of the building, said FOX19 NOW legal analyst Mike Allen, Hamilton County's former prosecutor.
"This obviously puts a huge crimp in the justice system in Hamilton County to come to a screeching halt like this just as court is starting in the morning," Allen said Tuesday. "Everyone will have to continue their docket. It's a royal mess."
Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Bernie Bouchard expressed gratitude to sheriff's deputies for protecting the courthouse.
"It's not over yet, so it's a very fluid and scary situation," Bouchard said Tuesday. "This just goes to show what the world is like today, you have to be on your toes at all times. Very thankful for the deputies protecting the courthouse. They did an excellent job catching this. Praying for safe end to this scare."
Once the item was determined to be harmless, he said: "Better safe than sorry."