Shots Fired at Rayburn House Office Building (Er, Just Construction Noises)
Update: Nothing to see here. Just a congressman unable to differentiate the sound of construction machinery from gunfire. Details below.
OTB roving correspondent Richard Gardner emails he’s seeing television reports about shots being fired at the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill.
Nothing yet online except this blurb at YahooNews: “BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Capitol locked down after reports of gunfire in a House office building – AP.”
CNN has a similar banner:
Update: AP is starting to get reporting out.
Police sealed off the Capitol on Friday after receiving reports of gunfire in a House office building across the street. Capitol police are investigating “the sound of gunfire in the garage level of the Rayburn House Office BHuilding,” said an announcement on the internal Capitol voice alarm system.
The Senate was in session at the time, but the House was not.
Update: Richard notes in the comments, “This is being turned into 24/7 coverage, lots of words, few facts.” Rick Calvert is liveblogging the television accounts.
Update: Rep. Jack Kingston’s interns are blogging from the inside. It appears that there is no immediate danger.
Update: Michael Demmons wonders, “Did Cynthia McKinney finally crack?” Heh.
Update: Apparently, a Kingston staffer got the vapors and was taken to the hospital.
The Capitol Police have scheduled a press conference for 1:30 Eastern. One suspects it will be carried live by everybody.
Update: It turns out the “gunshots” were construction tools.
A phone call reporting gunfire — apparently a false alarm — led police to briefly shut down the Capitol Friday and search the largest House office building floor by floor as staff members and a few lawmakers were kept inside. Officers with rifles stood by outside, and ambulances arrived. But in the end police said there were no arrests, injuries or confirmation of any gunfire in the garage of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The report originated with Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., his press secretary said. Saxton heard what he thought were gunshots and had a member of his staff call Capitol Police, said spokesman Greg Keeley.
Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said police were investigating a “plausible explanation” that the day’s events resulted from noise made by construction workers in the Rayburn garage. “In doing their routine duties, they made some sort of a noise that sounded like shots fired. So it was a valid call,” she said.
On high alert, police lined the street between the Capitol and the Rayburn building, rifles prominently displayed, and four ambulances, two firetrucks and other emergency vehicles were on the scene. Police methodically searched the sprawling building, where congressional staff members had locked themselves into their offices as a precaution. “Right now we want to err on the side of caution,” Schneider said before the all-clear, which came at mid-afternoon, some four hours after the first report. “Lives could be at risk. If we have a gunman in the building we certainly want to find him. It’s premature to assume that it may not be a gunman.”
Saxon is going to go down in the Annuals of Congressional Courage along with Senator Mark Dayton, who closed his office the month before the 2004 elections based on a non-existent terrorism scare.
Update: See Jim Saxon Scared of Tools for further updates.