CEDAR RAPIDS — The city of Cedar Rapids employee who brought a shotgun to the City Services Center last week, prompting an evacuation, has been arrested.
According to a news release, Russell J. Howard, 42, was taken into custody at 9 a.m. Friday and faces charges of carrying weapons and unauthorized possession of an offensive weapon. Authorities allege Howard was in possession of a shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18 inches and that he brought the shotgun into the City Services Center at 500 15th Ave. SW on Aug. 23.
“Based on the investigation and working with the Linn County Attorney’s Office, it was determined charges were appropriate in this incident,” said Greg Buelow, public safety spokesman.
Howard was hospitalized after the incident and was arrested after his discharge from the hospital on Friday. Maria Johnson said Howard was fired by the city on Friday for “violating the city’s violence policy.” He was employed as a nuisance abatement officer and had been with the city since Jan. 21, 2009.
Authorities said Howard, who works in the building permit inspection area in the City Services Center, drove to work on Aug. 23 and, at 10:38 a.m., appeared with a shotgun in the public foyer by the building permit counter on the second floor. The building is home to about 375 employees and those inside evacuated after one employee activated a “panic button” to alert police.
The police department, along with its Special Response Team and negotiators, responded to the scene. A perimeter was formed around the building.
Police said Howard made threats to harm himself before retreating to a workplace area inside the building. Police entered the building and were eventually able to make contact with Howard. At 11:35 a.m., he was taken into custody.
City leaders previously said they did not have any work-related issues with Howard.
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“We did not see anything as part of his work at the city this morning or prior that would lead us to a concern about this kind of issue,” Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said during a news conference the afternoon of the incident.
Buelow said the carrying weapons charge reflects Howard bringing a weapon into a place where it was not allowed and putting the safety of others at risk.
“Essentially, he had no legal right to have a weapon in the workplace like that and also to threaten himself and, of course, jeopardize the safety of others in the process,” he said.
The unauthorized possession of an offensive weapon reflects the illegal modifications made to the barrel of the shotgun, Buelow said.
Howard was not identified as the employee involved in the incident until he was arrested.
“We believe while a person is a patient at a hospital and no charges were being filed, medical confidentiality needs to be upheld,” Buelow said.
Carrying weapons is an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison. Unauthorized possession of an offensive weapon is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
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