November 10, 2009
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police surrounded an office building near the governor’s mansion on Tuesday after a report of a disturbance initially believed to be a hostage situation. But they said there was no confirmation of hostages taken.
Police received a call around 10 a.m. from an alarm company, which had gotten a call from a woman who said there was a hostage situation on the fifth floor, Jefferson City police Capt. Mike Smith said.
“We have not been able to confirm any of that,” Smith said. “We don’t know whether we have a prank call or someone who misunderstood the situation.”
State employees in the building, reached by phone by The Associated Press, said an announcement over the intercom directed them to remain in their offices with the doors locked. Police later evacuated the building.
A former hotel, the 10-story Governor Office Building is located across the street from the governor’s mansion, on the south side of the mansion’s grounds. It primarily 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.
Neither Gov. Jay Nixon nor his staff work in the building. Nixon was in Dallas at the time for a meeting but quickly returned to Missouri upon hearing of the situation, spokesman Jack Cardetti said.
Police blocked vehicle and pedestrian traffic near the building while a helicopter temporarily circled overhead and officers with guns positioned themselves around the building.
Mike Reid, a lobbyist for the Missouri School Boards’ Association, said he was attending a meeting at the association’s ground-level office when police approached the building with guns drawn. Officers told meeting attendees to exit through a back door with their hands up and indicated there was a potential hostage situation, Reid said. After waiting for a while in a nearby restaurant, they were allowed to leave the scene, he said.
Mark Hughes, a staff adviser to Public Service Commissioner Jeff Davis, said the commission’s executive staff and safety officers had been in contact with employees on all nine floors that it occupies and nothing out of the ordinary had happened in any of the offices.
Hughes said police were evacuating the building floor by floor to conduct a more thorough search.
Public Counsel Lewis Mills, whose office is on the sixth floor, said nothing unusual happened in his office. An employee for the Missouri Development Finance Board, located on the 10th floor, also said nothing unusual occurred.