Police have found no evidence of “violence or injuries” but continue to search the Gannett building in McLean, Va., which houses the newsroom of USA Today, after a 911 call Wednesday reported that a former employee was seen in the building armed with a weapon.
Fairfax County police chief Edwin Roessler said officers “do not have any reports of gunshots being fired,” and the department said it had “found no evidence of any acts of violence or injuries.”
“At this time, right now, staff from our special operations division are searching floor by floor of the entire building. And while they are conducting their search, they are evacuating employees who have sheltered in place,” Roessler told reporters at a news conference.
“This is a very large office complex, and it’s going to take several more hours to evacuate the building and to make a determination if the building is all clear,” he said. “This is the best information I have at this time, and we all pray that this event will be a non-event.”
Roessler said officers “are treating this event as though we have an active shooter in the building,” and noted they “have not verified” whether the initial 911 call “is actually accurate.”
He said he could not confirm whether the ex-employee referenced in the call worked for Gannett but said there is a person of interest for whom police are searching.
USA Today employees were informed over the intercom shortly before 12:30 p.m. that there was an “issue” and they needed to evacuate the building, according to one person present. Heavily armored police were seen entering the building as staffers exited.
Some employees posted photos as their colleagues congregated on a lawn and driveway near the Gannett building. A spokesperson for the paper said it did not have a statement.
In a memo obtained by POLITICO, Gannett Chief People Officer David Harmon told employees the company has “been in contact with local law enforcement and we will need to be away from the building (and parking garage) for 1.5-4 more hours.”
Harmon advised employees who were able to return home without going near the building to do so or wait nearby “until we give our employees the ‘all clear.'”
In another memo, Harmon wrote that “to the best of our knowledge, all of our employees have evacuated and are safe,” and informed employees that law enforcement “are doing a floor-by-floor sweep of the building that could take hours.”