Confusion on Capitol Hill after reports of 'gunfire'

Published: Friday May 26, 2006

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The U.S. Capitol and Rayburn Congressional office building were put under lock-down as Capitol Hill Police searched to investigate "the sound of gunfire" in the garage of the Rayburn Congressional office building across from the Capitol. Reports now claim that the "gunfire" was nothing more than air hammer being used in an elevator shaft.

An email sent by Capitol Hill Police has informed Representatives and their staffers that, "all persons in the Rayburn Building may resume their respective routines and are able to move about freely."

Sgt. Kimberley Schneider reporters earlier that "several" tactical units are searching the entire Rayburn building, including the firing range. Sounds that seemed to be gunfire were reported to have come from the lowest level of the Rayburn office garage, labeled G3. Reports of shots fired had been called in to Capitol Hill police during the 10:00 hour.

Fox reported earlier that witnesses had seen a gunman inside a Rayburn gym, claiming that two women who ran out of the building told Capitol police they had seen a gunman in the "locker room."

The Rayburn building houses two gymnasiums--one for staffers, and one for Members only. This seems to have been caused by confusion surrounding the removal by ambulance of a staffer for Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), who suffered a panic attack during her second encounter with armed police. The police had entered to search the room. Congressman Kingston was in Georgia during the events, but his staff blogged about events live throughout the morning and early afternoon.

A House Democratic aide told RAW STORY earlier that a police officer had said that gunpowder had been found in the Rayburn garage. Talk of this was also attributed by CNN, to "two cops on the beat," but denied by Capitol Hill Police. The same aide also told RAW STORY that videocameras in the Rayburn garage often do not have tape in them and are not monitored.

Passageways between the Capitol and Rayburn building are still closed, as is traffic moving in the direction of Rayburn. Earlier, those found wandering in the Capitol hallways had been instructed to return to their offices as Capitol police went room to room in the Capitol to investigate the report. Doors had been sealed, but not locked.

One Democratic aide told RAW STORY that he saw police running down the hall, seeming somewhat frantic, shouting "get out of the way, get out of the way."

Representatives and their staffers, eager to embark on the holiday weekend, are now free to retrieve their automobiles and belongings from the Rayburn garage.