ahh, looks like he joined the staff after I left based on a bio I saw. good
I was laughing at the news people last night. "it poses no risk to neighbors" as they show footage of guys coming out in chem suits and going through some sort of decontamination spraywww.buffalonews.com/editorial/20040514/1035251.asp
Hazmat teams search prof's home
By T.J. PIGNATARO
News Staff Reporter
Click to view larger picture
DEREK GEE/Buffalo News
Agents with the FBI's hazardous-materials response unit remove suspicious biological material from a College Street home Thursday.
An Allentown street was closed off for more than eight hours Thursday as hazardous-materials teams from the FBI searched a University at Buffalo art professor's home and seized suspected biological agents.
The College Street home of Steven Kurtz, an artist and associate professor in UB's art department, aroused suspicions after Buffalo police went there about 1 p.m. Tuesday to investigate the death of Kurtz's wife, Zell, 45.
Kurtz told dispatchers he found his wife unconscious and not breathing in bed. His wife was dead when emergency crews and police arrived.
Authorities said they suspect the death had nothing to do with materials inside the house. It appears she died of heart failure, officials said.
But what they found inside the house raised red flags, officials said.
"The first responders noted what appeared to be hazardous materials inside," said Paul Moskal, special agent for the FBI.
Moskal said they are unsure what the materials are but believe they are some type of biological agents or bacteria.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force was contacted immediately.
Kurtz told authorities the biological agents he was cultivating in the house were being used for his artwork and agreed to let authorities search the house.
Wednesday evening, Kurtz was taken out to dinner by the FBI and put up in a hotel overnight. He has not been charged.
"He's been cooperative and helpful to the investigation. He told us what he knew to be there and what we could expect to find there," Moskal said.
Federal authorities consulted with Erie County Medical Center, the state Department of Health, and FBI chemical and biological experts, and obtained a sealed search warrant for the house early Thursday morning. They began executing the warrant at about noon.
College Street was cordoned off from Maryland to Allen streets as agents from the FBI's hazardous-materials teams from Pittsburgh and Quantico, Va., began their search. The agents wore white biohazard suits with masks, headgear and breathing devices, along with orange rubber boots, as they searched the house and collected material.
Hazmat crews from the Buffalo Fire Department were stationed outside the house and helped decontaminate federal agents as they emerged.
"Until they do the testing, they don't know what they have. We're handling this as the real thing until proven otherwise," said Maureen Dempsey, an FBI spokeswoman.
"We don't believe it's anything that poses a danger outside of the house," Moskal said.
One agent Kurtz is believed to use in his artwork is a strain of E. coli, according to a 2002 article published about the Critical Arts Ensemble, an artistic group that Kurtz helped found.
Further investigation is continuing.
Kurtz was not at the house Thursday evening. The FBI will await laboratory findings on the agents before deciding whether criminal charges will be levied. That could take a few days or up to several weeks.
The search was called off for the night at about 8:30. A Buffalo police cruiser and officer kept watch over the scene overnight. Agents were expected to return and continue their search this morning.