Update, Monday, 5:38 p.m.: "You just got punked."
That was the note written on the cell phone battery that was sent to Pure TalkUSA, a Covington-based cell phone shipping center in Lochridge Industrial Park, Covington Police Capt. Ken Malcom said Monday
When an employee pulled apart two batteries that had been fused together, a white powder was released, which caused a burning sensation and numbness in her hands.
The combination of two batteries being fused together, the note and several employees experiencing similar symptoms caused the police to assume the powder was a deliberate attack.
After further investigation, authorities determined the powder was simply lithium salt from inside the cell phone battery, and, most likely, the note on the battery was older and not related to the powder incident.
"We went from step to step - we still don't know for sure, it remains a possibility that it was still an intentional act - but it looks more likely that it was not an intentional act, simply a series of coincidences," Malcom said.
The batteries had been refurbished so they had passed through multiple people's possession and the writing could have simply been old graffiti, he said.
"Our investigation is complete," Malcom said. "It's very difficult to determine if anyone needs to be questioned about the note, because it could have come from anywhere. It's like a needle in a haystack."
Attorney Michael Geoffroy, who works for the company owned by his father-in-law, said he appreciated the precautions taken by the hospital and police in dealing with a situation that could have been very dangerous.
"We are happy that it ended up being nothing more serious than battery acid," Geoffroy said. "It goes to show the safety we need to take with a cell phone battery or any other battery if it's improperly kept or otherwise handled."
Original story: All patients involved in the incident at Pure TalkUSA early Friday morning have been treated and released after the white powder was found to be part of a corroded battery.
Ten people rushed themselves to the emergency room at Newton Medical Center just after 2:30 a.m. from Pure TalkUSA, a cell phone refurbishing company located in the Lochridge Industrial Park.
One worker opened a box of batteries from a regularly used distributor and two batteries seemed to be fused together. When she pulled them apart, a white powder was released and a note was found. Then contents of the note are not being made public, but Covington Police Captain Ken Malcom said it was clear the intent was to harm.
The worker who pulled the batteries apart began to feel numbness in her hands and a burning sensation on her arms and in her eyes. Moments later, nine other employees complained of the same burning sensation, and the group drove themselves to the hospital.
Authorities were contacted, including the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. The workers went through a Hazmat shower and the vehicles they rode to the hospital in are currently being looked at by authorities. The emergency room was closed for several hours but reopened around 3 p.m. and ended its ambulance diversion to surrounding hospitals.
Attorney Michael Geoffroy, who not only represents the company, but is also involved on a deeper level, since it is a family business, was at the hospital when reached for comment.
"I think it's a bad coincidence that a corroded battery showed up with some sort of note on it," he said... We are happy that all our folks are healthy and that is definitely our first concern. We are also very proud of our employees," he said, saying that the manager acted quickly and took control of the situation.