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SWAT teams respond to reported situation at Governor Office Building in Jefferson City

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 10, 2009 - Gov. Jay Nixon issued the following statement shortly after 5 p.m. -- “Thankfully, reports this morning of an incident in the Governor’s Office Building in Jefferson City turned out not to be true. I sincerely appreciate the quick response of area law enforcement to this situation. The men and women of the Missouri Highway Patrol, the Capitol Police and the Jefferson City Police Department should be commended for their swift action. As we saw by their quick response this morning, Missourians should have faith that our law enforcement agencies stand ready to protect them and their families in time of need.”

Law enforcement officials shut down parts of downtown Jefferson City this morning after learning of a possible hostage situation in the Governor's Office Building.

But police started clearing the scene at 2 p.m. and scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. Officials at the scene did not confirm or deny whether the situation was real or a false alarm.

Capt. Tim Hull of the Missouri Highway Patrol said that the Jefferson City Police Department got a call around 10 a.m. from an alarm company about a possible hostage situation on the fifth floor of the downtown Jefferson City building. The fifth floor houses members of the Public Service Commission staff.

Hull said the alarm company received a call from a woman. She had said that she heard over an intercom talk about a hostage situation. The alarm company then called the police.

No other calls or reports have come in since that point, Hull said.

Capt. Mike Smith of the Jefferson City Police Department said there were no casualties or shots fired.

Hull and Smith both said it's not known whether the situation is an actual hostage situation or a false alarm.

"We are in process at this time of clearing the building," Smith said. "We have no reason to believe [that there] any causalities, any shots fired, none of that's being reported. We're taking the necessary precautions at this point."

Those precautions, Smith said, included clearing each floor of the 10-story building. He also said law enforcement needed to identify everybody in the facility.

The situation prompted police to shut down most of High Street. The building is near the Governor's Mansion. SWAT teams went through the building and helicopters circled around downtown Jefferson City.

Mark Hughes, who works for the PSC, was on the ninth floor of the building today. He was told by the police to stay in his office.

"We were then told by law enforcement that they would be evacuating floor by floor so they could do a through search," Hughes said. "We were taken out of the building."

Hughes said though he was not worried.

"It's not a matter of hassle when law enforcement follows a procedure for what could be a very serious situation," Hughes said.

Below are the Beacon's earlier reports

Police in Jefferson City have announced a press conference for 4 p.m. this afternoon to discuss the situation in the Governor's Office Building. While they are declining comment for now, it appears that the call was a false alarm. No injuries were reported, and no one was taken from the building. In addition, the scene is returning to normal: The police tape is down, the street is open and the police cars are gone. 

Capt. Tim Hull of the Missouri Highway Patrol said that an alarm company got a call from a woman who overheard something on an intercom indicating that there was a hostage situation on the fifth floor of the Governor's Building, an office building housing some state agencies, in Jefferson City. (It is not the Governor's Mansion where the governor and his family live.) The alarm company contacted the police, who are currently conducting a search of the building to determine whether the call was real or a hoax.

Mike Smith of the Jefferson City police emphasized, in contrast to some Twitter reports, that there have been no shots fired and there are no casualties. The SWAT teams are going through the building floor by floor to check out the situation and evacuate anyone still inside. Smith told a reporter that it was possible the incident was a hoax, but it was still too say to say for sure.

Gov. Nixon was at a business meeting in Texas this morning but returned to Jefferson City when he was informed of the situation. He is in contact with police officials from his office, monitoring the situation, according to a press release from the governor's office.

Jason Rosenbaum, a freelance writer in Columbia, covers Missouri politics and state government. 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.