The Arizona Republic
Sept. 10, 1997
By William Hermann and
Phoenix police and firefighters
will remember it as "the Mystery of the White
The call came about 10:30 a.m.
Monday. A citizen alerted the Phoenix Fire Department
that Daisy, his golden retriever, became ill after
eating white powder off a sidewalk in the Moon Valley
area, near Ninth Avenue and Thunderbird Road.
"The man told us his dog
sniffed and licked the stuff and came back in the
house and vomited," Division Chief Terry
Garrison said. "The guy put two and two together
and figured there might be something very wrong with
that white powder."
The firefighters hit the
street. Those first at the scene found a daunting
sight: White powder all through the neighborhood.
It was deposited in odd,
arrowlike stripes on the sidewalks, and a breeze had
apparently scattered it onto lawns and landscaping
"Our people said, 'Hey,
this could be hazardous material. We better take some
precautions,' "Garrison said.
The fire department sent 12 big
fire engines to the scene, carrying a total of about
The Phoenix Police Department
sent eight motorcycle officers, one motorcycle
sergeant, one motorcycle lieutenant, two field
officers, one field sergeant, one detective and a
public information officer, a spokesman said.
The cops closed off an area of
about 2 square miles. Children at the local
elementary and middle schools were kept inside.
Neighbors were warned not to get near the mysterious
Some firefighters gathered
samples of the powder. Most sat for hours under the
shade of trees and firetruck umbrellas, navy blue
T-shirts soaked with sweat from the 106-degree heat.
Some chatted with nearby
Many cheered when the fire
department's "goody" truck showed up,
stocked with fresh Gatorade and trail mix.
One local resident emerged from
his house, gazed around in wonder, and asked police
who had been murdered.
Television news reporters
reported the white powder crisis as their 5 p.m. lead
story on at least two stations. It led the 10 p.m.
news on most stations.
The fire department called in a
hazardous-material company to vacuum up the
substance. Children were removed from harm's way and
driven home on buses or by worried parents.
Finally, at 11 p.m., the six
men operating the huge vacuum cleaners were finished.
The firefighters and the cops packed up and departed.
Residents went to bed.
And as they slept, an anonymous
caller to the fire department solved the mystery of
the white powder. Garrison said it was a woman who
declined to leave her name.
"She said she was with a
jogging club, and they had put flour on the sidewalks
Saturday to mark where people were supposed to jog in
an event they had," Garrison said.
"She said she was real
sorry, and hung up."