Employees inside a northern Virginia office building that houses Gannett headquarters and its flagship outlet USA Today were evacuated Wednesday amid reports of an armed man on the premises, officials and the newspaper said.
Shortly after noon, a 911 caller told police that a former employee with a gun was in the building, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. said.
Police did a floor-by-floor search but didn’t find an armed threat.
“Our prayers have been answered. Everyone is safe,” said Roessler Jr.
Even though Wednesday afternoon proved to be a huge disruption to Gannett and other businesses that operate out of that building, Roessler Jr. said the 911 caller made the “right decision” to alert police.
Before it was determined to be a false alarm, the chief said police had to fully investigate.
“But we have to treat this as real until we eliminate all the social media, text messaging that is out there,” Roessler Jr. said. “But we do know the report that came in is we had an ex-employee armed with a weapon and we have to treat that until we dissolve all the other issues.”
Building employees could be seen on videos posted to social media leaving the building.
Americans are on edge in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 people dead within 24 hours this past weekend.
Panicked pedestrians in New York City fled Times Square on Tuesday night, mistaking a motorcycle’s backfire for gunshots.
The evacuated Gannett building is less than 50 miles from headquarters of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, where a gunman broke in and killed five people in June 2018.
Earlier this week, GateHouse Media, a chain backed by an investment firm, announced it was buying USA Today owner Gannett Co. for $12.06 a share in cash and stock, or about $1.4 billion.
The combined company would have more than 260 daily papers in the U.S. along with more than 300 weeklies. It would be the largest U.S. newspaper company by far, with a print circulation of 8.7 million, 7 million more than the new No. 2, McClatchy, according to media expert Ken Doctor.