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Suspect held in Los Angeles subway mercury spill

Story Highlights

• Man held on parole violations being questioned about spill
• It's unknown how or why suspect possessed mercury
• Video shows a man spilling something on platform December 22
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- California authorities on Tuesday arrested a man suspected of spilling mercury in a Los Angeles subway station before Christmas, according to an FBI spokeswoman.

Armando Bustamante Miranda, 27, was being held on parole violation charges and was being questioned, said Laura Eimiller. He was arrested by the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force. Eimiller could not say whether Miranda is a U.S. citizen.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said Miranda is homeless. He would not comment on why he allegedly had mercury in his possession.

The task force last week said they were seeking a man for questioning in connection with "unexplained activity." That activity can be seen in a copy of the surveillance video -- obtained exclusively by CNN -- that shows the Pershing Square subway station in Los Angeles late on the evening of December 22, the Friday before Christmas. (Full story)

In it, a man wearing a brown jacket crouches on the train platform and spills about five fluid ounces of a liquid from a small bottle. He then goes to a Metropolitan Transit Authority call box to report what happened. Testing of the spot later showed the liquid was mercury.

Mercury can be dangerous, but spilling it on the subway platform would have no immediate toxic effect. That's one reason the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, the lead agency in the investigation, believes the spill was an accident and not terror-related. Also, the man alerted authorities to the spill right afterward.

In the case of the spilled mercury, according to the HAZMAT clean-up report read to CNN, law enforcement did not respond for eight hours.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority said in a statement released Tuesday it has launched an internal investigation into how the incident was handled.

CNN's Deborah Feyrick contributed to this report.


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This surveillance video shows a man leaving liquid mercury on a Los Angeles subway platform.

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