City employee with shotgun inside Cedar Rapids City Services Center now in custody
No injuries reported; man taken to hospital
CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids city employee armed with a shotgun and apparently intent on harming himself entered the City Services Center on Wednesday morning, prompting an evacuation.
The incident ended approximately an hour later with the man in custody. The gunman — who is not being identified by police or city leaders due to medical confidentiality concerns — has been hospitalized at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital, according to public safety spokesman Greg Buelow.“We are very fortunate this had a peaceful resolution,” Buelow said, noting no shots were fired and no one was injured.
City officials said the man works in the building permit inspection area in the City Services Center, 500 15th Ave. SW. He drove to work Wednesday morning and at 10:38 a.m. presented himself with a shotgun in the public foyer by the building permit counter on the second floor. It is unclear if the man entered the public entrance or an employee entrance.
“The individual this morning, early in the morning, was acting in a completely normal fashion, talking with and meeting with colleagues about work-related matters,” City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said at an afternoon news conference. “There were no signs this morning, as well as any signs we’ve detected previously.
“He came to work with the weapon and then showed the weapon to several employees and threatened his own life,” Pomeranz added, noting the matter remains under investigation.
Employees and visitors began evacuating quickly, and an employee used a “panic button” to alert police, Pomeranz said. Police arrived a few minutes later and formed a perimeter around the building. The police department’s Special Response Team and negotiators responded to the scene, as well.
Buelow said police are not aware of the man making any threats against anyone inside the building.
Buelow said the man retreated to a “workplace area” inside the building. Police entered the building and cleared every room to ensure everyone had gotten out safely and there were no other threats. Negotiators were eventually able to make contact with the employee.
“They talked with him for several minutes and eventually convinced him to put down the weapon and allow himself to be placed into custody for transport to St. Luke’s for evaluation,” Buelow said. The man was taken into custody at 11:35 a.m.
The man was not injured during the incident.
Pomeranz said they believe the man was dealing with “significant personal issues” and don’t believe it was work related.
“I believe this is a situation where he was dealing with significant personal issues and as occurs at times, people find these issues insurmountable,” Pomeranz said.
Cedar Rapids police Deputy Chief Tom Jonker said police plan to work with the county attorney to determine what, if any, criminal charges should be filed. That would happen after the man has received medical treatment.
“Investigators will determine if charges are appropriate,” Jonker said. “At this point the individual is considered a patient that was transported to a medical facility for evaluation and treatment.”
Buelow confirmed police searched the man’s vehicle, but he was not aware of any significant findings inside the car. Buelow was uncertain if the man’s residence had been searched but said that would be a “logical extension” of the investigation.
The City Services Center, which is about a half mile south of downtown, is home to the Building, Parks and Recreation, Streets, Information Technology, Health Services and Public Works departments. About 375 employees work in the building, though some of them were likely out in the field at the time of the incident, and about a dozen visitors were in the building at the time, Buelow said.
“It was calm. We simply walked out down the steps,” said Scott Foens, of Marion, who works in the information technology department at the building.
He said he was told somebody was in the building with a firearm and he was asked to leave immediately.
Those who evacuated gathered along Fourth Street SW, some calling their loved ones to let them know they were OK as they waited for more information.
Beth Weeks, city assessor, said she heard from others in the building that “an employee had a gun, pointed it and said, ‘Get out.’ ”
“It was really, really frightening,” she said. “I was anxious to get everyone out of the building. My stomach is churning.”
The City Services Building closed for the remainder of the day Wednesday, but Buelow said it is expected to open for normal business hours on Thursday. Employees were reminded that counseling is available, Buelow said.
“It’s not anything unusual to have reactions to a stressful incident like that,” he said.
Pomeranz praised police and employees for their “calm, quick and professional” response to a “stressful and troubling situation.”
Employees in the City Services Building had received emergency incident training as recently as June or July, and they responded appropriately, said Police Lt. Charlie Fields. He said employees are trained to “escape, evade and engage” in active shooter situations, but thankfully only the first step was necessary on Wednesday.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett urged people dealing with extreme stress to explore counseling services offered through their employer or through the United Way if the employer doesn’t sponsor services.
“There’s no shame in seeking help and seeking support,” Corbett said. “The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself or hurt others because you are having a difficult time dealing with extreme stress.”
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