OUTSIDE THE WASHINGTON NAVY YARD, D.C. – Law enforcement have concluded that a shooting scare here at the heart of the nation's capital Thursday morning was a false alarm after sweeps of the area, which focused on the sprawling headquarters building that was the scene of a 2013 mass shooting.
Sweeps of the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters and surrounding buildings found no evidence of shots fired, after a police call that triggered a massive response from area law enforcement and a lockdown that kept employees shut into their work stations or off base.
Law enforcement sounded the all clear around 10 a.m., and some police began leaving the scene afterwards.
At 10:20 a.m., the Navy confirmed that no employees had been injured and there was no evidence of shots fired on the base, saying the Naval Criminal Investigative Service was conducting an investigation.
The response began at 7:29 a.m., when an employee called from a building on the Navy Yard to report possible gun shots, according to a Navy statement Thursday morning.
"NCIS agents and other law enforcement have completed their inspection of the Humphreys Building (Bldg. 197). All personnel are safe and accounted for," the statement said. "There are no signs of a shooting, a shooter, or victims."
The building at the center of the search was the NAVSEA headquarters, where a deranged gunman with base access fatally shot 12 people in September 2013 before he was killed by police.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said police had found no shooters or evidence of gun shots at an 11 a.m. press conference. Vice Adm. Dixon Smith, the head of Navy Installations Command, said that the Navy Yard lockdown was expected to be lifted in the morning after a final sweep of the premises.
Police have ruled out a hoax, saying that the 9-11 call was an appropriate alert sent by a concerned employee.
"The person the who made the call heard what she thought may have been gunshots and she made the call, which is what employees here are trained to do," said Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier. "We have no concerns that this was a hoax whatsoever."
The chief said the employee, whom police are not naming, reported the suspected gunshots around 7:29 a.m. this morning. The report was broadcast by the Naval District of Washington police.The chief praised the employee.
"We tell people over and over again, 'See something, say something.' You don't know what's going on; Don't take things for granted. Regardless of what it is, an employee thought they heard something of concern. They made a call. That's what we tell people to do."
Smith said employees in the NAVSEA headquarters either went outside or were taken to the conference center.
Based on experiences from the 2013 shooting, they are being provided with counselors and chaplains if needed, Dixon said.
Bowser said officials were grateful there was no evidence of a shooter or any victims after police responded.
"We take clear and credible concerns from our citizens very, very seriously," Bowser said at the conclusion of the press conference, noting that the law enforcement response had taken lessons from shortcomings identified in the 2013 response, including communications problems between the D.C. authorities and the base.
Employees were evacuated from surrounding buildings and have been told to avoid the area.
A heavy police presence began leaving the scene after the all clear around 10 a.m. Federal authorities and Metropolitan Police Department officers responded the base Thursday morning. Buildings were locked down and roads were closed. Helicopters circled overhead and dozens of police vehicles lined up on M Street in a scene eerily reminiscent to that two years ago.
The response was concentrated around the NAVSEA headquarters building, where thousands of sailors, contractors and Navy civilians work everyday on ship and submarine design and systems.
The incident triggered a huge response from law enforcement agencies and emergency responders, including Metropolitan Police; the U.S. Park Police; NCIS; D.C. Fire Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and the Secret Service, along with dozens of unmarked vehicles.
During the lockdown, some workers were milling about on the streets outside the Navy Yard, where press gathered to await updates from authorities. Law enforcement packed the streets outside the base in the heart of the capitol. Those on the installation were ordered to shelter in place.