Lockdown stalls Capitol on busy session day

Lockdown stalls Capitol on busy session day

The Maryland State House. (Christine Zhu/Capital News Service)

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By STEPH QUINN, KIERSTEN HACKER, ANGELIQUE GINGRAS, LYDIA HURLEY and SAPNA BANSI

Capital News Service

Lawmakers, personnel and members of the public sheltered in place for almost two hours Thursday afternoon after an anonymous threat led police to lock down the Annapolis State House complex.

Maryland Capitol Police locked down the state Capitol and the office buildings of the Senate and House of Delegates, authorities said. The lockdown was in effect minutes after a call to the Annapolis City Police Department from someone threatening to target the State House.

The emergency ended at 6:52 p.m. after the Capitol police coordinated sweeps of those buildings and surrounding grounds, and determined that the areas were “secure and clear of any potential threat,” according to Nick Cavey, director of communications at the Maryland Department of General Services.

When the order was issued, House Minority Leader Jason Buckel, R-Allegany, was just finishing up with a hearing. Witnesses were dismissed, he said, but the members and staff were asked to shelter in place, and the assigned committee officer stayed with them.

“All buildings have been cleared and folks (are) moving freely,” Buckel wrote in a text message to Capital News Service at 6:56 p.m. “As to what caused it, I don’t have any credible specifics.”

The lockdown came at the end of a busy session day when many lawmakers were still at work.

A helicopter circled over the State House and bystanders witnessed emergency vehicles speeding toward the Capitol and, later, officers running around the complex.

The order to shelter in place disrupted proceedings for the remainder of the afternoon and into the evening – though not completely. After the all-clear, Sen. Sarah Elfreth, D-Anne Arundel, said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that she had “spent lockdown safely with my colleagues working on the budget.”

The incident began to unfold around 5 p.m. when the threatening phone call came in, said Shepard Bennett, Annapolis City Police public information officer. Annapolis City and Maryland State police responded to canvas the area, shutting down State Circle to pedestrians and traffic.

As of 6:15 p.m., police had found no suspicious activity or weapons on the top floor, according to Bennett. Officers evacuated lawmakers and others on the first and ground floors after they secured the area. While officers were searching for weapons and other threats, those remaining in the building were instructed to shelter in place.

After the building got the all-clear, just before 7 p.m., Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City, and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, D-Baltimore County, issued a joint statement on X.

“We wanted to thank all the law enforcement officers who responded today. We and everyone else in the legislative complex are grateful for their presence as we continue to do the people’s work,” they wrote.

Elected officials recognized law enforcement officers and, in a flurry of tweets, reflected on the events of the day.

“Our family is grateful for the members of the Maryland Capitol Police, Maryland State Police, Annapolis Police Department, and the Anne Arundel County Police Department who secured the State House Grounds and kept us safe today,” Gov. Wes Moore said on X.

“These brave men and women aren’t just Maryland’s finest – they’re Maryland’s promise. They define what it means to be a Marylander.”

At 7:01 p.m., Sen. Shelly Hettleman, D-Baltimore County, wrote on X, “What a very strange few hours it has been on lockdown. Thank you to all @MDSP and (Capitol) Police for keeping us safe.”

As officers continued to clear the complex, Del. Stephanie Smith, D-Baltimore City, wrote on X, “I started today celebrating reading with Big Bird, and now we’re sheltering in place at the Annapolis State House complex.

“Life moves fast,” she wrote. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but I hope for a swift and peaceful resolution.”

About The Author

Capital News Service

aflynn1@umd.edu

Capital News Service is a student-powered news organization run by the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. With bureaus in Annapolis and Washington run by professional journalists with decades of experience, they deliver news in multiple formats via partner news organizations and a destination Website.

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