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Tenants Evacuate High-Rise After Terror Warning

Safety: Hundreds leave city's 2nd-tallest building after tip that a plane would strike it. FBI determines threat is not credible.

July 02, 2002|ERIN CHAN and GARIOT LOUIMA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A telephone tip warning that a plane would strike the "First Interstate building" on Monday prompted hundreds of downtown workers to evacuate the second-tallest building in Los Angeles.

After learning of the unsubstantiated threat from the FBI and Los Angeles police, managers at the Aon Center, previously known as the First Interstate Tower, notified the 70 companies that employ about 3,200 people in the building.

But no one left the nearby 73-story Library Tower, formerly called the First Interstate World Center, which also received an early notice Monday from the FBI.

"We are the tallest building west of Mississippi; we're on a first-name basis with law enforcement," said Peggy Moretti of Maguire Partners, the owners of the Library Tower.

"We get threats all the time. This was a bogus threat, and an evacuation wasn't necessary."

Laura Bosley, an FBI spokeswoman, said the bureau had notified managers of both buildings of the telephone call received by KABC-TV Channel 7 because it was not clear which of the former First Interstate buildings had been referred to.

Cheryl Fair, the station's news director, said the call had referred to the Library Tower.

Peter Anastassiou, general manager of Aon Center, said he notified tenants about 10 a.m. and issued a "purely voluntary" evacuation.

Authorities told him that the caller had alerted Channel 7 to train a camera on the "First Interstate building" because an airplane would fly into it.

Aon Corp., the building's largest tenant, with 833 workers, closed its offices for the day, Anastassiou said.

The company lost 175 employees in the World Trade Center attack Sept. 11.

The building's second-largest tenant, Wells Fargo bank, informed its staff of 400 and allowed employees to leave.

"A handful left, but most of [the] employees continued to work," said Mary Trigg, a company spokeswoman.

Authorities found the person responsible for the tip, and after an interview determined that the threat was not credible, Bosley said.

She would not disclose who made the telephone call. "These threats are common," Bosley said.

For workers like Erin Furey, 27, the day was nerve-wracking. A supervisor told her to leave.

"The elevators were really clogged," the research analyst said. "Some people even took the stairs."

Asked whether the Library Tower should also have been evacuated, Bosley said, "We don't recommend evacuations until we establish something credible."

*

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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