A call to 911 of possible shots fired at the Washington Navy Yard early Thursday triggered a massive Navy security and law enforcement hunt for an "active shooter" that was later called off after the report proved to be unfounded.
Metropolitan Washington , D.C., Police Chief Kathy Lanier said the 7:29 a.m. call to 911 was traced to a female Navy civilian worker at the Navy Yard who thought she head the sounds of gunfire in Building 197, scene of a shooting rampage in 2013 in which 12 people were killed and three wounded.
After interviewing the woman, Lanier said that "we have no concerns that this was a hoax call." She said the woman acted correctly in reporting what she thought was a shooting incident.
"This is what we tell people to do," Lanier said, but after a thorough search of the 41-acre facility on the Anacostia River in southeastern Washington, D.C., "all evidence is that there was no criminal act here."
Lanier also said that the emergency response by the Navy, Metro police, the U.S. Park Service Police, the U.S. Marshals Service and other federal agencies was better coordinated than the response to the 2013 shootings, which was marked by poor inter-agency communication.
"It appears all the things we tried to correct from the last time were corrected," Lanier said. She said it appeared that "we fixed what we were going to fix."
The Navy gave a similar account of the incident. "NCIS [Navy Criminal Investigative Service] agents and other law enforcement have completed their inspection of the Humphreys Building (Bldg. 197). All personnel are safe and accounted for," Lt. Jacqueline Pau, a Navy spokeswoman, said in a statement.
At the same time, Pau indicated that the investigation is still ongoing and that the scene at the Navy Yard remains active, but responding investigators found no evidence of a shooting, a shooter or victims.
"The Washington Navy Yard and law enforcement agencies have trained to respond to this type of situation. This resulted in an organized search of the facilities by first responders," Pau said.
Alarms sounded across the Navy Yard after the 911 call, telling personnel to shelter in place. About two hours after the alert, the Navy issued a statement saying that "no incident can be confirmed yet" and an "all clear" followed that.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Scott Williams, who was at the Navy Yard during the 2013 shootings, was among those who were quickly evacuated from the Yard Thursday under tight security. He told CNN that "I did not hear gunshots."
Earlier, Lt. Ryan Benitez, a Navy spokeswoman, said, "We're telling people to remain in place, the gates are closed" as police shut down local streets in the emergency response.
In 2013, a gunman who had been hired for maintenance work got into Building 197 and killed 12 people and injured three others before he was fatally shot by a Washington Metropolitan police officer.
The alert at the Navy Yard followed on warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI of the possibility of an ISIS-directed or inspired terror attack in the U.S. over the July 4th weekend.
The Navy Yard incident also triggered precautionary security moves at other federal facilities across Washington, D.C. At the White House, the pedestrian walkway on Pennsylvania Avenue on the north front of the White House was shut down.
Despite the warnings, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, who joined Lanier at a news conference, said, "We're looking forward to events on National Mall" over the weekend.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.
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