‘Large Contingent’ of MoCo Police Responded to False Alarm About Active Shooter at Walter Reed

Department says it took appropriate action to assist allied agencies at Bethesda base

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When the calls came reporting an active shooter Tuesday afternoon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Montgomery County police sprang into action.

Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti, a police spokesperson, said Wednesday the department responded with a “large” number of officers and Emergency Response Team personnel, as is typical for such situations.

Officers closed Rockville Pike closed from Woodmont Avenue to Cedar Lane while authorities investigated the situation. Meanwhile, the Rockville base was on lockdown and Naval Support Activity Bethesda reported that security personnel were searching the basement of Building 19 after receiving reports of an active shooter.

Those who were sheltering in the various buildings posted their worries and concerns on social media. Parents whose children were in a day care center on the base traded information about what they’d heard on Facebook as they waited to hear when they could pick up their kids. “I’m over here freaking the F out,” one mother posted.

But it soon became clear that there was no need for alarm or the emergency response. At about 3:20 p.m., the county police department was notified that there was no actual threat at the Rockville Pike complex, Innocenti said. County police officers who had responded were informed that Naval Support Activity Bethesda had issued an “all clear” announcement at roughly the same time.

Conflicting announcements about the incident soon followed. The U.S. Navy said the reports of an active shooter were part of an ad hoc drill by one of the base’s tenants, but NSA Bethesda countered that the reports were a “false alarm” and not a drill.

Navy officials later clarified that the reports had resulted from an accidental activation of an emergency alert system.

When asked whether the department was concerned about the number of its resources diverted to Walter Reed for what was later deemed an unfounded threat, Innocenti referenced an incident in March when a man called police claiming he had shot someone, but officers responding to the location determined the report to be false. The incident was investigated as a “swatting” call, a fake request designed to draw a police response.

Innocenti noted that more than 40 officers responded to that unfounded threat, explaining the department must provide the necessary response to such calls for service.

“If someone believes there is an active shooter, of course we will respond with the appropriate response to that call for service,” Innocenti said. “Certainly, there’s the potential that resources are being pulled from other services.”

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