McHenry County courthouse declared safe after ‘suspicious package’ prompted evacuation

Authorities X-rayed the package and still are investigating why it was left at the entrance

People standing outside after being evacuated from the McHenry County Courthouse Feb. 14, 2024.

About two hours after an abandoned suitcase caused the McHenry County courthouse to be evacuated Wednesday, the all clear was given for people to return to the building.

But authorities said they still are investigating who left the suitcase at the entrance of the building and why, and they are reviewing security footage.

The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office said security footage showed a white GMC truck driven by a woman who “was observed removing the suitcase from her truck and placing it at the east entrance” to the building.

About 2 p.m., the sheriff’s office said the courthouse in Woodstock had been evacuated because a “suspicious package” was found at the east entrance of the building.

With the use of a robot, the suitcase was moved away from the building and X-rayed by the Kane County bomb squad. The sheriff’s office later said the suitcase was “deemed safe.”

In an email response to questions from the Northwest Herald, Kane County Undersheriff Amy Johnson wrote that the bomb squad was “requested for two suspicious packages that were left at the doorway” to the courthouse.

“The bomb squad found that the devices left had no explosives or anything dangerous thanks to their top-notch equipment,” Johnson said. “The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office is aware of who the individual is that left the items and [is] actively investigating the incident.”

The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a question about the discrepancy in the number of suspicious packages found.

People were allowed to go back into the building about 4 p.m., when court administrator Dan Wallis announced the “all clear.”

The sheriff’s office later put out an announcement saying “there is no threat to the public, and all entrances have been reopened.”

Those evacuated included attorneys and jurors assembled for a trial in a third-floor courtroom, witnesses said.

Alex Vucha of the Woodstock Fire-Rescue District said the fire department also was at the scene as a “precautionary measure.”

The courthouse was closed for the rest of the day. Remaining court hearings were canceled and are expected to resume Thursday, Wallis said.

Northwest Herald reporter Claire O’Brien contributed to this report.