Vending machine toy explodes into suspicious white powder: Police

A Los Angeles County police department might need some stress relief of its own after initially posting, then retracting, a report that cocaine was found in a vending machine children’s toy.

The Bell Gardens Police Department issued a press release Tuesday stating that a mother and young son purchased a small putty toy, similar to a stress ball, from a vending machine at the Taqueria Los Altos restaurant the previous day.  While the little boy was playing with the toy, it burst, revealing a white powdered substance inside.

Concerned, the mother contacted the authorities.  The police said in the press statement that the powder tested positive for cocaine, and that 136 grams (4.8 ounces) of cocaine was removed.  The initial press release listed the contact information for the vending machine company, Snack Time Vending, with a warning to any local businesses leasing from this company to remove the machines from public access and alert the police.

The department issued a second press release on Wednesday which included more detailed photos of the toys in questions and another warning to the public.  It noted that the investigation into the supplier was still ongoing. Both of these statements were shared via social media on the department’s Facebook page, Twitter account and various local media outlets. 

A few hours after the second press release, the BGPD issued yet another statement, this time contradicting the information posted earlier:

“Further investigation has been conducted by detectives of the Bell Gardens Police Department on this case and it has been determined that the original testing performed on the substance revealed a ‘false positive’ test for cocaine.”

According to the statement, the white powdered substance resembled talcum powder or baking soda and the exact composition had yet to be determined, although the police were “confident that is not cocaine nor does it pose a health risk.”

The department justified its initial reporting as resulting from “an abundance of caution and concern for community members, especially small children who may come in contact with these toys,” adding,

“It is always a good practice to continue to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police department.”

A woman who answered the phone at the vending company told the Los Angeles Times that “we’re getting a bad rap.” 

A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page thanked its customers who supported the business and “advocated against this bad publicity.”