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UPDATE: Employees return to evacuated Jefferson City office building

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 | 4:44 p.m. CST; updated 5:44 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 10, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — It's over.

Police in Jefferson City confirm no hostage has been found in a search of the Governor Office Building at 200 Madison St. and that the situation has ended. Shortly after 1:50 p.m., dozens of law enforcement officers left the building, many equipped with carbines and submachine guns.

A press conference was held at the Jefferson City Police Department at 4 p.m.

Some employees were seen returning to their offices shortly after 2 p.m., signaling the end of a lockdown that had been in place since approximately 10:30 a.m.

Whether there was a real threat remains unclear.

Just after 10 a.m., a Public Services Commission employee working on the fifth floor told an administrator she heard an announcement over an intercom that there was a hostage situation on the fifth floor, said Dan Joyce, director of administration of the Public Services Commission.

When the administrator contacted Sonitrol — the building's security service — to ask about the announcement, Sonitrol immediately alerted the Jefferson City Police Department, Joyce said.

The building was locked down shortly after, and employees were advised over the intercom not to leave their offices.

The Jefferson City Police Department, Capitol Police, Cole County Sheriff's Department, Missouri Highway Patrol, Jefferson City Fire Department and two SWAT teams responded to the call, according to Capt. Tim Hull of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Initial rumors and updates on Twitter reporting gunshots were soon denied by police.

Approximately 190 staff members work in the building, Joyce said. The building, a former hotel called the Governor Office Building, is not a state building but leases offices to the state government. The Missouri Public Services Commission, which manages utilities in the state, takes up eight of the 10 floors, Joyce said.

Throughout the day a chopper circled the Governor Office Building and police cordoned off several blocks of Madison Street, which crosses in front of the building. The Missouri Highway Patrol had set up a mobile command unit in an alleyway across the street, and law enforcement from various agencies huddled at nearby street corners. A Cole County ambulance sat with its back doors open and a stretcher at the ready.

But by 1:30 p.m., some employees who had been waiting in the building were seen exiting through a parking lot across the street. Shortly after, the bulk of the law enforcement had left the scene.

Robert Clayton, chairman of the Missouri Public Services Commission, said police would be investigating the incident. He lauded their efforts.

"In light of what happened recently in Texas and Florida, it was an appropriate response by law enforcement," Clayton said.

His office is on the eighth floor. "It was a pretty scary time there for a little while," Clayton said.

There remains some confusion over how the employee heard an announcement over an intercom. Joyce said the building's intercom system sends out messages to either entire floors or the entire building — not to a single person.

Clayton said that when the lockdown message was sent out to the entire building, there was no mention of a potential hostage situation.

Clayton said that the Public Services Commission would be conducting its own investigation internally.

"We are not looking at any disciplinary action right now," he said. He said it appeared that everyone followed emergency protocol.

He also said people remained calm.

Missourian reporter Stephani Fleming contributed to this report.


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