Investigation into unfounded Jefferson City hostage report continues

Friday, November 13, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri officials said Thursday that the investigation is ongoing into what led to an unfounded report of a hostage situation in an office building near the governor's mansion.

The downtown Jefferson City building that houses the Missouri Public Service Commission and other agencies was locked down for several hours Tuesday after a report of a hostage situation on the fifth floor. Police searched office by office and found nothing unusual.

Commission Chairman Robert Clayton said Thursday that employees' statements will be used for an internal report, but it appeared so far that they behaved properly. Employees also have been asked to evaluate the commission's response and suggest improvements.

Police spokesman Capt. Mike Smith said Thursday that the investigation is ongoing and no other information was available.

Commissioners started a regular meeting Thursday by thanking emergency responders for their work earlier this week. Discussion of some agenda items was delayed because of Tuesday's disruption.

A woman has told police that on Tuesday morning she heard a warning through an elevator speaker about a hostage situation on the building's fifth floor and then told a higher-ranking employee. Clayton said it's believed the statement was heard in a service elevator and that it's possible a different employee in a different elevator at a different time also heard the warning.

The higher-ranking employee then contacted an alarm company to get more information about the statement, Clayton said.

"As I understand it, the employees that were involved at the start, basically one reported it to a higher authority in the building and that person inquired, raised some questions," he said. "And as it looks right now, it appears that it was done in an appropriate manner. Not in an alarmist, but just basically matter of fact, 'this is going on, what does it mean, what action should be taken?'"

Clayton said that just before the statement was reportedly heard in the elevator, a group of people had left an employee-of-the-month event on the fifth floor and reported seeing nothing unusual.

The alarm company notified Jefferson City Police around 10 a.m., and police responded in force. Several blocks were cordoned off, a Missouri State Highway Patrol helicopter circled and police officers with guns patrolled downtown buildings.

Police Capt. Doug Shoemaker, who was one of the first responding officers, told reporters Tuesday that he also heard a warning over an intercom telling workers to avoid the fifth floor because of a hostage situation. Shoemaker described it as a female, human voice.

Clayton said the commission used an internal public address system shortly after 10 a.m. to tell employees to remain in their offices and not to allow movement between the building's floors. He said there was no mention of "hostage" in that statement.

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