Iowa City Police: Suspicious package was an electronic art piece

Local artist's piece discovered in abandoned newspaper box

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Iowa City Police say the suspicious package that interrupted downtown Iowa City Sunday evening was nothing more than a piece of art.

An investigation determined the item found in a newspaper vending machine was an electronic art piece made by local artist and poet Russell Jaffe, a press release said.

According to the release, Jaffe helped police by remembering the local resident who bought his art at a venue in January.

The resident - who police have identified - was using the abandoned newspaper box near the corner of Dubuque and Washington Streets to transfer items between people in a "take something, leave something" set up, the release said.

The resident put Jaffe's art piece into the newspaper vending machine with no malicious intent, police said, but when a private security employee discovered it during the Summer of the Arts Festival, it raised concerns.

The Johnson County Metro Bomb Team cordoned off the area, used a remote control robot to analyze the item, and destroyed it with a water cannon.

The resident who placed the art in the box is cooperating with investigators and has requested anonymity.

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