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THE NATION

Professor Accused of Lying About Missing Vials of Plague

January 16, 2003|From Reuters

LUBBOCK, Texas — A Texas Tech University professor was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of giving false information to authorities about 35 vials possibly containing the bacteria that causes plague that were reported missing at the university, police said.

Dr. Thomas Butler, a prominent member of the university's infectious diseases division, was arrested for allegedly giving false information to a federal agent. Butler may have destroyed the vials that were reported missing, Lubbock police said.

The FBI said all the missing vials had been accounted for and the incident posed no danger to the public.

"We have accounted for all of those missing vials and determined that there is no danger to public safety whatsoever," Guadalupe Gonzalez, special agent in charge of the FBI's Dallas office, told a news conference in Lubbock.

Gonzalez said an investigation was launched Tuesday when a doctor at the university reported the vials missing.

Law enforcement officials and staff at the university stressed that the bacteria believed to be in the vials could not be used as a weapon of mass destruction. The vials were kept in a secure area and were used by researchers.

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