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Government & Politics

State House, nearby government buildings locked down for 2 hours after threat was phoned in

Police blocked off State Circle and surrounding streets during a two-hour lockdown in the State House and nearby buildings Thursday. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.

The Maryland State House and neighboring legislative buildings were on lockdown for almost two hours Thursday evening after a man called in to the Annapolis Police Department and said he was approaching the capitol building with a gun.

The lockdown began around 5 p.m., and law enforcement officers gave the “all-clear” in the State House and three nearby buildings at 6:52 p.m. But the intervening time was marked by tension and uncertainty — and differing levels of anxiety for the people who were working in or visiting the legislative complex, depending on where they were and what they were told.

Gov. Wes Moore (D), Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) were in the State House at the time of the lockdown. House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) had left the building moments earlier.

Police shut down State Circle, which surrounds the State House, and nearby streets, around 5 p.m.

In a statement, Nick Cavey, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of General Services, which oversees the Maryland Capitol Police, said the lockdown was ordered after the Annapolis police “received a call from an individual threatening to target the Maryland State House.

“The Annapolis City Police immediately notified the Maryland Capitol Police, Maryland State Police, Anne Arundel County Police, and security personnel in the House and Senate buildings about the potential threat,” Cavey’s statement said. “Within minutes of receiving the information, Maryland Capitol Police placed the Maryland State House, Government House, and House and Senate Office Buildings on lockdown, directing occupants to follow instructions from law enforcement — including to shelter in place.”

But the lockdown order was disseminated unevenly, and little information was issued officially while the lockdown was in place — and even after.

At 5:36 p.m., a spokesperson for Moore, Carter Elliott IV, released a statement that said: “The Maryland State House is currently under lockdown for a security threat. No other information is available at this time.

“Staff members, personnel, and community members on grounds should shelter in place and listen to directions from any available member of capitol police or law enforcement.”

Reporters working in the press room in the basement of the State House were warned by Jeremy P. Baker, Jones’ chief of staff around 5 p.m. that a gunman might be in the building and were advised to lock the doors. Others working in the State House basement received similar, frantic warnings, as rifle-toting police officers ran by. The eight people in the press room locked the doors, turned out the lights and huddled on the floor.

Word of the emergency spread more slowly to the House and Senate office buildings, where several legislative committees were holding public hearings.

“The Maryland Capitol Police coordinated sweeps of the State House, Senate and House buildings and surrounding grounds, according to protocol, and determined that the areas are secure and clear of any potential threat,” Cavey said in his statement. “The lockdown and shelter in place was lifted at 6:52 p.m. and all remaining occupants, including the governor, lieutenant governor, and Senate president, were escorted from the building, per situational protocol.”

Elliott, Moore’s spokesperson, said that after the all-clear, the governor crossed the street to Government House, the governor’s mansion, where several mayors from across the state had gathered for a reception that was scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

Members of Gov. Wes Moore’s staff after being evacuated from the State House Thursday. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

“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,” Moore said in a statement Thursday evening after the area was declared safe. “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.”

But not all of the mayors made it inside to the reception before the lockdown order was called.

Rockville Mayor Monique Ashton said she was standing outside the gates of Government House just after 5 p.m., waiting to go into the reception for mayors, when she was hustled away from the building by security personnel and led to Lawyers Mall, just across from the State House.

Ashton was part of a group that was later escorted into the Lowe House Office Building and led into the Baltimore City delegation room, where about two dozen people, including State House staff, student pages and journalists were told to wait. They wound up being there for about an hour.

“It’s not how we expected things to be today,” Ashton said.

A handful of members of the Anne Arundel County Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Unit were on hand offering counseling to the people in the Baltimore City delegation room.

Across the street in the Miller Senate Office Building, the Finance Committee continued a lengthy voting session while committee members slowly learned of the lockdown.

Business continued as usual for about an hour.

At 6:20, security officers quietly locked the doors of the committee room. Senators continued their business without publicly acknowledging the situation.

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee shelter in place Thursday evening during a lockdown of the state legislative complex. Photo by William J. Ford.

At 6:30, the voting session ended, and security personnel announced the committee room was locked down. Most people attending the hearing and senators had heard of the lockdown situation through social media or word-of-mouth by then, so there was little surprise.

“For the time being, unfortunately, yes, I’m not allowing you to leave,” security personnel told the attendees.

“You’re not allowed to leave,” she directed to committee members. “We’re all sheltered in place here.”

Some lawmakers cracked jokes, while Sens. Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore City) and Ben Kramer (D-Montgomery) started passing out snacks while they waited.

Around 6:50, Senate Finance Committee members were escorted out of the room, but visitors had to stay in place. Then at 6:55, all were allowed to leave the Miller Senate Office Building.

Despite the “all clear” notice, heavy law enforcement presence remained on the premises for some time after 7 p.m.

After the all-clear announcement, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and Houser Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) released a statement, thanking the law enforcement officers who responded.

“We and everyone else in the legislative complex are grateful for their presence as we continue to do the people’s work,” they said.

But some lawmakers, in private conversations and on social media, said there had been no notice from the presiding officers about the incident while it was taking place or for a long period afterwards. Similarly, staff in the House and Senate office buildings were not notified or given definitive instructions.

There is no text alert system for those who work in the legislative complex.

Second security incident this year

The incident Thursday is the second public threat made against the State House during this year’s legislative session.

In January, an unidentified person made a bomb threat against the State House. The threat was made the same day that other states received threatening emails claiming explosives were placed in other capitol buildings.

The threat against the Maryland State House as well as others across the country were unfounded.

Thursday’s lockdown came during a typically busy day, just past the midway point of the 90-day General Assembly session, with hundreds of elected officials, staffers, advocates, journalists and visitors on hand.

It also coincided with “Read Across America Day,” a festive occasion meant to salute educators and honor the birthday of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

A person in a full-sized Big Bird costume roamed the State House during the morning, posing for pictures with lawmakers and others in the building.

While the lockdown was in progress, Del. Stephanie Smith (D-Baltimore City) took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to post a picture of herself with Big Bird and describe the uncertain mood.

“I started today celebrating reading with Big Bird, and now we’re sheltering in place at the Annapolis State House complex,” she wrote. “Life moves fast. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I hope for a swift and peaceful resolution.”

Maryland’s State House is the oldest in continuous operation in the nation. The building was once home to the Continental Congress. Gen. George Washington resigned his Continental Army commission on the floor of what is now the historic Senate Chamber. The resignation is seen as an example of the peaceful transition of power in a newly independent country. Washington’s original handwritten resignation speech is displayed in the rotunda of the building.

This breaking news story has been updated.


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State House, nearby government buildings locked down for 2 hours after threat was phoned in