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Lockdown Follows Report of Gunfire in Capitol Garage


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

It has been tumultuous week in Washington politics. Rhetorical combat hit a fever pitch with charges flying from Capitol Hill to the White House and the Justice Department joining the fray in between. At issue were investigations of members of Congress, both real and reported. Also, the bitter immigration debate and plan indignation over turf and prerogatives.

Then today, the whole Capitol Hill complex was put under lockdown as police investigated what turned out to be erroneous reports of gunfire in a House office building. We'll have analysis of the political jousting in a moment.

First, NPR's Brian Naylor reports on today's false alarm on Capitol Hill

BRIAN NAYLOR reporting:

At around 10:30, what had been a quiet Friday morning at the Capitol turned chaotic.

(Soundbite of crowd)

NAYLOR: That's when Capitol police received a report of gunshots in the parking garage underneath the Rayburn House Office Building. Police immediately locked down Rayburn and for a time the Capitol itself across the street. Heavily armed officers appeared, fire trucks, ambulances and something labeled a mass casualty unit arrived outside the garage's entrance. Police spokeswoman Sergeant Kimberly Schneider says Capitol police tactical units joined by FBI agents began an extensive search.

Sergeant KIMBERLY SCHNEIDER (Capitol Police): That means doing it the old-fashioned way. We're going door to door, floor by floor. Every inch, every square inch of the Rayburn Building is going to be cleared out today.

NAYLOR: For those members of Congress and staffers who were trapped inside their offices, it was a long, hungry day. Among them was California Democrat Bob Filner.

Representative BOB FILNER (Democrat, California): The food stores are rapidly diminishing, so send pizza whenever you can. But you know everybody's calm and just doing their work and we expect it to be resolved fairly quickly. They came around with a door-to-door search. They had advised us that they would have a secret knock and a code word so we'd know who it was.

NAYLOR: About five hours after the shots were reported, Capitol police announced the search was over and reopened the building, saying construction workers apparently caused the noise that sounded like gunshots.

Republican Congressman Jim Saxton of New Jersey says he was the one who heard what he thought were the shots and told his chief of staff to call the police.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.