The cable news networks are all abuzz about a reported shooting at The Rayburn House Office Building, one of the complex of buildings that house US government offices around the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
According to the talking heads sitting at their desks in the TV studios, someone called the Capitol Police and reported the sound of gunfire on the underground garage level. The police reportedly didn’t find anything, but they did sniff the distinctive odor of cordite (modern gunpowder). The cops locked down the building, refusing to allow anyone to leave, and now they are making a room-to-room search.
This is the proper response, of course. Footage shot by reporters being escorted out of the building by way of the parking area show it to be really huge, taking up more than one level and stretching for some distance. If somone ripped off a few rounds from an autoloader, it will take a fair amount of time to find the spent shell casings. They could have used a revolver, though.
There would be shell casings only if some shots were fired in the first place. I routinely hear distant sounds that I could swear are gunshots while I walk my dogs in the wee hours of the night. It turns out that it is only garbage trucks emptying dumpsters.
This could be a false alarm. We will see.
I have decided to watch the Fox News Channel. The reporters are able to phone elected officials trapped in their offices by the lockdown to get their impressions. Pretty neat.
There is going to be a press conference in 20 minutes.
UPDATE: 11:50 EST
Speaking as someone who has a little experience with physical security, it is hardly a surprise that someone with a gun would have penetrated the parking garage. Interior parking spaces are usually the hardest to keep secure.
The reporters keep mentioning that there is an underground shooting range in the building that the police use. The implication is that the noise could have come from the range, which is certainly possible. The range I frequent has a double door system to try and keep the noise down, but people routinely open both doors at once while passing from the showroom to the range.
Does that mean something like that happened at The Rayburn Building? Someone opened a door they shouldn’t have while the firing line was hot and the noise caused alarm? It is certainly possible, but it seems to me that alarms about errant gunshots would be rather frequent if it was easy to do.
Like I said, we will see.
To keep the interest high, the news guys keep cutting to shots of police pulling up in their cruisers and gearing up. It seems that the Glock 23 is standard issue for the Capitol Police, with M4A1′s as long guns. I have yet to see any shotguns.
UPDATE: 12:02 EST
The police PR officer is in front of the cameras now. She doesn’t have any info to share that we haven’t heard before.
This could be a juvenile prank, you know. Set a few firecrackers off in the parking garage and call in a report of gunfire when no one reacted. The professionals are going to treat it as a serious threat no matter what.
UPDATE: 12:30 EST
I’m rather impressed with the reporters at Fox. They report all the information they get, but they are very careful to point out that they cannot confirm any of it. That is the way they are supposed to act, but it seems that standards were allowed to slip at some of the networks. I wonder how much of this willingness to follow the basic rules of journalism is due to the realization that bloggers will scream loud and long if they stray from the path.
They are still trying to keep the interest high, though. They just breathlessly related a report of three SWAT officers who exited an elevator! They are tasked with helping in the search! And they had their guns drawn!
So what are cops supposed to do when looking for a shooter, anyway? Carry Easter baskets full of chocolate bunnies?
But it isn’t just the reporters that are talking about how the cops have their sidearms ready for use. They talk to people inside The Raybrun Building via cell phone every so often, and they won’t shut up about it. “Three officers walked by my door with guns drawn! Their guns were drawn!”
I suppose it shows an easy way to distinguish government employees in Washington and those who work to protect others. They think it is alarming while I find it comforting.
The latest is a report that some guy with a gun was spotted hiding in a gym off of the parking area. The description is a white guy, 5″11″ and 175 pounds. Could they get more nondescript?
It is going to be awhile before anything happens. I work nights, so I’m going to hit that sack and check the news later this evening to see how it turns out. Sorry for any typos.