Capitol Police Probe Report of Gunshots
Capitol Police Probe Report of Gunshots
May 26 1:23 PM US/Eastern
By LIZ SIDOTI
Associated Press Writer
Guns drawn, police briefly sealed off the Capitol
Friday and launched a floor-by-floor search of the
largest office structure on Capitol Hill after an
unidentified caller reported gunfire. Amid chaos and
confusion, police said there were no injuries, arrests
or confirmation of the gunfire.
"The report is that shots were fired" at 10:30 a.m.
EDT in the garage of the Rayburn House Office
Building, said Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt.
"We have not gotten any reports of anybody being
captured, anybody being arrested," 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 standby outside the
office structure. Police methodically searched the
sprawling building, where congressional staff had
locked themselves into their offices as a precaution.
An Associated Press reporter overheard a dispatch on a
police radio saying police were looking for someone
who was about 6 feet tall. It was not known whether
the dispatch was related to the incident at Rayburn.
Schneider said the search and massive police
deployment was triggered by a single telephone call
from an unidentified individual. Police had no other
confirmation of gunfire, she said at a noon EDT news
"Right now we want to err on the side of caution,"
Schneider said. "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."
The Senate was in session at the time, but the House
was not as most lawmakers had left for the Memorial
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., conducting a House
Intelligence Committee hearing, interrupted a witness
to request those attending the meeting to remain in
the room and said the doors must be closed.
"It's a little unsettling to get a Blackberry message
put in front of you that says there's gunfire in the
building," he said.
The search was a complicated one and police said it
could take hours. The building, which covers an entire
city block, is connected to a second office building
by an underground tunnel. That building, in turn, is
connected to the Capitol by a second underground
The Rayburn House Office Building was completed in
early 1965 and is the third of three office buildings
constructed for the U.S. House of Representatives. It
sits across the street from the Capitol. The building
has four stories above ground, two basements and three
levels of underground garage space.
Nearly two hours after the first alert, Capitol police
sent an email message to occupants of the office
building saying they would soon begin a floor-by-floor
"During the search, the police officers will knock
three times on each office door, announce 'United
States Capitol Police,' knock three additional times,"
and then confirm their identity by speaking a code
word, it said.
Steven Broderick, press spokesman for Rep. William
Delahunt, D-Mass., was in his car in the Rayburn
garage Friday morning getting ready to drive his boss
to the airport, when he was ordered by a Capitol
Police officer to park the car and put his hands on
the steering wheel. The officer then told him to run
toward an exit where other officers where gathered.
"He just told me to run and don't look back,"
A second Associated Press reporter heard noise outside
a Rayburn press room and peeked out the door. A police
officer, gun drawn, shouted, "Get in the room. Get in
The U.S. Capitol Police Department's Containment &
Emergency Response Team maintains an indoor shooting
range in the basement of the Rayburn building,
according to the department's Web site. Eleanor Holmes
Norton, the District of Columbia's delegate to
Congress, raised the possibility that noises from a
nearby construction site were mistaken for gunfire.
"No one's panicking, everyone's calm," said Charles
Isom, spokesman for Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah. "It did
ruin some people's lunch plans."
The incident occurred at the end of a week of
unusually tumultuous series of events that ironically
enough, began in the same building. FBI agents armed
with a search warrant seized documents and computer
material from the first office of Rep. William
Jefferson, D-La., in a weekend raid. Jefferson is at
the center of a federal bribery investigation.
At the Capitol, police quickly closed all doors,
stopping people from either entering the building.
Tourists were herded into a first-floor chamber in the
middle of the building.
The Capitol was reopened within an hour, then sealed
back off by police, and eventually opened to the
public again about 12:30 p.m. EDT.
Associated Press Writers Jim Abrams, Katherine
Shrader, Suzanne Gamboa, David Espo, John Heilprin,
Mary Dalrymple, Andrew Miga, Lara Jakes Jordan and Sam
Hananel contributed to this report.