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Artist Unknowingly Becomes Subject of Bomb Threat

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- Police say the suspicious package that spurred a bomb threat situation in Iowa City on Sunday night was actually a piece of art work, and was never intended to be a threat.

The locked down streets and the water canon explosion all happened because of the handiwork of an artist and poet named Russell Jaffe.

In January, Jaffe had an art show auction with several pieces of destroyed electronics and poetry that he had made. He sold a busted up TV, with a note attached, to a woman, and never thought of it again.

Until Sunday, when he was wrapping up the book tour for his collection of poetry, "This Super Doom I Aver", in Chicago, and he heard about the bomb threat.

"My landlord called me and was like, 'Do you know the police are looking for you?' and I was like, 'No, I do not know the police are looking for me. I do now,'" Jaffe said.

The police were looking for Jaffe because the woman who had purchased his artwork had left it in an abandoned newspaper vending machine downtown. Apparently, people leave and take art from the box all the time, but when someone saw the wires of the broken television sticking out of a random vendor during the Iowa City Arts Festival, they alerted the police.

Law enforcement officials say they have to assume the worst, so when they saw the suspicious package, they had to treat it like a real threat.

That's something officials from all over the Corridor learned about at a regional training in Johnson County on Thursday. When it comes to people's safety, they can't take any chances.

"They take it to the next level to render that device safe, just because you don't know," said Linn County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. Pat Brady.

"Ironically, it's a piece of art misplaced from the artistic setting that we're used to seeing art in that derails Arts Fest," said Jaffe.

Now that everyone is safe, Jaffe said this is a good chance to think, not only about ourselves, but the world around us, too.

"I hope that people think about what it says about the world we live in, what it says about 2013 in art and in culture, and I hope that people just really reflect on their surroundings," he said.

Jaffe also runs a local printing press called Strange Cage, and he is hosting a reading at Fair Grounds Cafe on June 25.

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