UPDATE: Call to unlisted number prompted Jefferson City hostage scare

Monday, November 23, 2009 | 5:54 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Police said Monday that an unfounded report of a hostage situation near the Missouri governor's mansion earlier this month was prompted by someone calling an unlisted elevator telephone to warn of a hostage-taking.

The downtown Jefferson City building that houses several government agencies was locked down for hours Nov. 10 as police searched each office and found nothing unusual. More than 150 people slowly evacuated the building as bystanders watched from about a block away.

Jefferson City police said Monday that the hostage report began with a call from a still-unidentified person to an elevator telephone warning of an ongoing hostage situation. The elevator's phone system is designed for emergency situations, and that telephone number is unlisted.

A woman in the elevator heard the warning and reported it to a higher-ranking official who then contacted the building's alarm company.

The alarm company notified the Jefferson City Police Department 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 near buildings.

The 10-story Governor's Office Building is located across the street from the governor's mansion on the south side of the mansion's grounds. Formerly a hotel, it now houses the staff of the Missouri Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities. It also is home to the state's consumer advocacy office and a development finance board.

No governor's office personnel work in the building.

Public Service Commission chairman Robert Clayton said earlier this month that the agency planned to review how its employees responded and would release a report. Clayton said it appeared those involved behaved properly.

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.

Police said Monday they are continuing to investigate the hostage report and likened the false report of a hostage situation to a prank bomb threat or fire alarm.

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