The U.S. Capitol Police said late Wednesday afternoon that Capitol Hill was clear of a security threat that had briefly prompted a manhunt, evacuations and panic inside Senate office buildings after a report of an active shooter that the police chief later suggested might have been the result of “a bogus call.”
By 4:30 p.m., police said they had been unable to confirm the report of a gunman, and a sweep of the Capitol complex revealed no injuries, shots or danger. But that message came after two hours of fear gripped the Capitol during an otherwise sleepy summer afternoon when lawmakers were out of town for their August recess.
J. Thomas Manger, the chief of the Capitol Police, said a 2:30 p.m. call to 911 warned of an active shooter in the Hart Building, prompting his department to launch a furious search of the property. The D.C. police were assisting with the investigation. Mr. Manger said that the shooter had been described on the call as a heavyset Hispanic man wearing body armor, but that there had been no sighting of such a person and no shots confirmed. The investigation was continuing, he said.
“We had close to 200 police officers going floor to floor through all three Senate office buildings,” Mr. Manger said at a news conference a few blocks away from the Capitol. “We found nothing concerning. Nobody that actually heard a shot, certainly no victims, no one has said they’ve seen anything.”
With no confirmation of any active shooter, Mr. Manger said, “This may have been a bogus call.”
Congress recessed last week for a five-week break, but the Capitol complex is full of staff aides who continue to work. In a security alert sent out just after 3 p.m., staff members were told to find a place to hide and to seek cover. They were ordered to stay away from doors and windows.
On the streets around the Capitol, police officers could be heard telling people to run. Capitol Police officers came into one Senate office building carrying long guns and evacuated everyone on the ground floor, according to a witness. Some staff members were led out with their hands raised. Others on higher floors sheltered in place, said the witness, who described the scene on the condition of anonymity.
A large police presence, including the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department, was visible at the Capitol.
The House sergeant-at-arms asked staff members on the House side of the building to avoid the Senate office buildings.
The threat came a day before Mr. Trump was expected to appear in Washington at a federal courthouse just blocks away from the Capitol, after being indicted on charges related to the effort to overturn the 2020 election and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the complex, which is still fresh in the minds of many who work there.
Mr. Manger said that the Capitol Police, along with other federal law enforcement agencies, had been on alert for weeks about potential threats surrounding the anticipated indictment, but that there were no plans to fence off any areas for Mr. Trump’s appearance.
He said there was a security plan in place but declined to elaborate on any details.
Karoun Demirjian contributed reporting.
Luke Broadwater covers Congress. He was the lead reporter on a series of investigative articles at The Baltimore Sun that won a Pulitzer Prize and a George Polk Award in 2020. More about Luke Broadwater
Annie Karni is a congressional correspondent. She was previously a White House correspondent. Before joining The Times, she covered the White House and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign for Politico, and spent a decade covering local politics for the New York Post and the New York Daily News. More about Annie Karni
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