Fairfax County

Gannett Headquarters Declared Safe After Report of Armed Person

Someone "saw something that was out of place, and they called 911," the police chief said

Police declared Gannett's national headquarters safe on Wednesday after receiving a report that an armed person was seen there, sparking the evacuation of the building and a search for a person of interest. 

A 911 call about a former building employee seen with a weapon in the McLean, Virginia, office drew a large police response and national attention. 

Fairfax County police chief Ed Roessler said someone apparently believed they saw something dangerous in the building, which houses USA Today's headquarters. 

"They saw something that was out of place, and they called 911," Roessler said at a news conference. 

It's unclear if anyone did have a weapon, the police chief said. 

The person who the 911 caller believed they saw was not in the building, and there was no evidence they committed a crime. That person is a former employee of a business in the building, not an ex-Gannett employee, according to Roessler. 

Officers searched the large office complex floor by floor and found no threat. No injuries were reported. 

Police ruled out the possibility that the 911 call was an instance of so-called swatting, in which someone falsely reports a crime in attempt to get a SWAT team to respond. 

Roessler said that though the investigation disrupted businesses, the 911 caller made the "right decision," and the police operation was worthwhile. 

"Our prayers have been answered. Everyone is safe," he said. 

Officers searched the building floor by floor, looking for a potential shooter. Hundreds of people were evacuated from it. 

Police received a 911 call shortly before noon Wednesday with a report of a former building employee seen with a weapon. 

Officers searched for a person of interest and found them at another location in Fairfax County. 

Police said on Twitter earlier in the day that the person was a man. 

A woman who works in the building said she was down the block when she saw about 20 police cars head toward her office.

"I just kept walking," Alex Singer said, with a nervous laugh. "I don't really know, but with everything that's gone on in the past week, I just don't wanna take any chances."

A federal law enforcement official told USA Today that authorities received a mistaken report of a person with a weapon.

The investigation is ongoing. 

The Gannett building is located at 7950 Jones Branch Drive, near the Capital Beltway and the shopping malls, office buildings and homes of Tysons Corner.

Chopper4 footage showed police and ambulances on the scene. An American flag outside the building hung at half-staff after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. 

The large police response follows the deadly shooting in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, in June 2018. The alleged gunman killed five people after a longtime dispute with the newspaper's editor.

Police advised people to avoid the Gannett headquarters. For people affected by the incident, a reunification center was set up at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner hotel, at 7920 Jones Branch Drive. 

Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story.

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