Cedar Rapids official: City employees had been unaware co-worker brought shotgun to work

Man still not identified, is hospitalized; no decision made on charges

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Co-workers likely were unaware a city employee, who triggered an evacuation by displaying a shotgun in a public city building Wednesday, had a firearm with him that morning, authorities said Thursday.

The man, who has yet to be named, arrived at work with the gun and conducted work activities as usual Wednesday morning. Police are still piecing together where the gun was between the man’s arrival and 10:38 a.m., when he threatened to use the weapon to harm himself near the business services area of the City Services Building, 500 15th Ave. SW.

No shots were fired, and no one was injured, including the gunman, who is being treated at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital, authorities said.

“City employees are prohibited, unless you are a law enforcement officer and it is part of your city responsibility to have a weapon, you are not allowed to have a weapon in the workplace,” said Greg Buelow, the city’s public safety spokesman. “So I do not believe that that weapon was present, prior to the incident, in his workspace.

“Where he had it prior to that still is part of that investigation,” he added. “I am very confident there would not be an employee with a weapon in the workplace that would not have caused a disruption or concern or a call to police prior.”

If the shotgun was in the man’s car, which he drove to work that morning and which police searched, authorities are not yet saying. Police also sent officers to the man’s home and made contact with the other occupants, Buelow said.

Police on Thursday continued the investigation, which includes piecing together a timeline, determining where the gun came from and when, interviewing witnesses and deciding whether any charges should be filed, Buelow said. Buelow noted a person doesn’t need a gun permit to purchase a shotgun.

Buelow said police approached the incident as an “active shooter” situation and considered it an “enormous threat with that number of people in the building.”

Police plan to consult with Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden to determine the appropriateness of charges.

Vander Sanden declined to answer questions about the case Thursday because, he said in an email, “the matter still is under investigation.”

Vander Sanden said police have the authority and discretion to make arrests, while the county attorney ultimately decides whether to file charges.

Buelow said police are not setting a timetable on how long the city employee will be in the hospital or when a decision will be made on charges.

“Our priority is that he gets the medical attention he needs, and he is hospitalized right now,” Buelow said.

Officials said the man is dealing with “significant personal issues” and don’t believe the episode was work-related. He did not threaten anyone besides himself, and no previous indicators could have predicted the situation, authorities said.

Officials continue to withhold the man’s name, citing medical privacy exemptions.

“At some point, if there’s charges, that becomes a public record,” Buelow said.

City officials planned to evaluate the man’s future employment with the city, City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said Wednesday. Cedar Rapids spokeswoman Maria Johnson said Thursday the man’s employment status will not be released while the investigation is underway.

It’s unclear how the decision to treat the incident as a medical situation will affect his employment.

The City Services Center, which closed the remainder of the day Wednesday after the evacuation, reopened for normal business hours Thursday.

The center, which is about a half mile south of downtown, houses the Building, Parks and Recreation, Streets, Information Technology, Health Services and Public Works departments. About 375 employees work in the building.

“The city is providing counseling services for employees on site today and tomorrow, and these services will be available on an ongoing basis for those in need,” Johnson said Thursday.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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