SAN DIEGO — A woman took her smoking SUV to a San Diego Jiffy Lube Wednesday, where mechanics found two powder-filled bundles taped to the underside of the vehicle, police said.
The mysterious packages prompted a bomb squad investigation that shut down a block downtown “out of an abundance of caution,” according to Acting Sgt. Amanda Jimenez with San Diego Police Department.
It all started around 11 a.m. when the woman pulled up to the Jiffy Lube near the corner of B Street and Tenth Avenue in the Cortez Hill area, Jimenez told OnScene TV. The woman told Jiffy Lube employees that she noticed “odd smoke” rising from her SUV as she drove and asked them to take a look.
The mechanics found two large bundles, wrapped in plastic and taped to the underside of the vehicle, Jimenez said. To be safe, the fire department’s Metro Arson Strike Team and a bomb squad came to investigate the packages, shutting down B Street in the immediate area for over an hour.
Video showed bomb techs driving a remote-controlled vehicle under the SUV to get a closer look at the packages, before an investigator crawled under the vehicle and removed the bundles by hand. He also pulled out what looked to be an electronic device.
Investigators determined there was no threat of an explosion or other danger to the public, Jimenez said. She did not comment further on the substance found in the bundles, saying only that it was a powder and that more testing was necessary to determine its contents. She also did not identify the small device pulled from under the SUV.
In the past, federal authorities have warned U.S. residents that they can become unwitting drug mules when they visit Mexico, especially if they get a minor auto repair while south of the border.
“A lot of times the ‘mule’ (drug courier) doesn’t even know what he or she is bringing, and a lot of times the stories seem to be legit: the vehicle had a GPS tracker and the other guys were pretty much seeing where the vehicle was parked and waiting to remove the narcotic,” a CBP official in Laredo, Texas told Border Report in 2019.
The official, who spoke on condition that he remained anonymous, said the drivers unknowingly pass through border inspections without raising red flags or acting suspicious, because they don’t know what’s happening.
As of Wednesday afternoon, authorities had not confirmed whether they suspected a similar scheme was at play in the case of the driver downtown.