A reported hostage taking in downtown Jefferson City turned out to be nothing serious, but the investigation continues as authorities try to determine what led to the situation that saw law enforcement descend on the Governor Office Building to determine whether there was any validity to the report they had received.
In a late afternoon news conference at the Jefferson City Police Department, three hours after the “all clear” sign had been given and roads that had been blockaded were opened to traffic again, police could verify what led to their being called to the building, but made it clear they were still looking for answers as to exactly what happened.
Jefferson City Police Captain Michael Smith said a woman in an elevator claims to have heard a voice notification that a hostage incident was taking place and she notified another woman who called the Sonitrol Alarm Company, which called police.
“There was a subject inside the building who originated the call to the alarm company,” said Captain Smith to dozens of reporters from throughout the state who had covered all or part of the unfolding events of the day. “That person’s actions were prompted by a circumstance that – we’re not sure – it may be related to a call (on an elevator phone) that originated from outside the building.”
Mark Hughes, with the Missouri Public Service Commission, was in the building when police informed tenants that a police operation had begun.
“They asked us to remain in our office, have all PSC staff remain in their office, and lock each floor – allow no one access to the floor,” said Hughes in a meeting with reporters after he and some of his colleagues had been allowed to leave the building.
Amber Branch, who works for a law office across the street from the Governor Office Building, knew something was amiss when she saw police with guns at the scene.
“We were actually sitting in the law firm,” said Branch. “We saw two cops go flying by, so we were interested, of course, and we went outside and saw them pull rifles and run into the building across the street and, after that, we stood out and watched cars come flying in and rifles pulled and they yelled at everyone to get inside immediately and lock doors.”
Branch found out about the situation from one of two friends who were inside the Governor Office Building.
“We immediately texted my friend,” said Branch. “And that’s when she said we’re on lockdown – there might be a hostage situation.”
Once the situation ended and people were allowed to leave the building, people like Mike Parnell with the Missouri School Boards’ Association saw this as a good chance to practice drills.
“The bottom line for me is just looking at it from the standpoint that nobody was harmed,” said Parnell. “I see it as a wonderful opportunity, really, for law enforcement officials to get what you might call a real life practice session.”
During the evacuation of the building, which was conducted floor by floor, approximately 155 people were safely removed.