Police locked down the huge Rayburn House Office Building at the U.S. Capitol Friday after reports of gunshots in the building but a floor-by-floor search turned up nothing and police now believe the “gunshots” were nothing more than the jackhammer of a construction crew.
The U.S. Capitol Police sealed the building for five hours — and indication of just how gunshy life in Washington has become since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
A police spokeswoman told reporters it appeared the sounds were made not by gunfire, but by a jackhammer used by construction workers in the garage of the Rayburn building.
“The explanation is that there were some workers who were working in the area of the Rayburn garage, in the elevator area. And doing their routine duties, they made some sort of a noise that sounded like shots fired,” said spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider.
Schneider added, “We’ve returned to normal business.”
No arrests or injuries were reported. One staffer was taken to the hospital after suffering a panic attack.
Police reported they were investigating sounds of gunfire in a garage level of the Rayburn building shortly after 10:30 a.m. (1430 GMT).
Many members of the U.S. Congress had left Washington, getting an early start on a weeklong congressional recess. The House was not in session and the Senate continued to meet in the morning.
Tactical teams searched the four-story building, including its three underground garage levels and a Capitol Police firing range two floors away. Rayburn houses 169 lawmakers in three-room suites and has two basements.
“We are going door to door, floor by floor. Every square inch of the Rayburn building is going to be cleared out today,” Schneider said earlier.