Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - The Cannon House Office Building was locked down just before 1:30 EST Thursday and congressional staff members were ordered to stay inside their locked offices as U.S. Capitol Police searched for a man who bypassed a security checkpoint with a gun.
"At this time, the Capitol Police have put the building on lockdown," said U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Public Information Officer Jessica Gissubel. "We are going to be letting people exit the building as long as they agree to an administrative search, and we are doing all we can at this time to assure the safety of everybody inside and out."
The male suspect reportedly entered the Southeast door of the Cannon building, which is located at the farthest point of the building away from the Capitol and near the Capitol South Metro (subway) station. The man placed a gray and black backpack or bag on the conveyor belt for the X-ray machine and walked through the magnetometer (metal detector) without setting it off.
Capitol Police, however, noticed what they believed to be a weapon in the backpack as it passed through the X-ray machine. When they began to approach the man to search the backpack, he grabbed it and ran away. Police officers chased the man, but lost sight of him.
Gissubel dismissed earlier speculation that what officers saw on the X-ray machine's display screen was a replica or toy firearm.
"It is indeed a gun," Gissubel responded.
Officers are also searching for a female suspect, who Gissubel said entered the building at the same time as the male suspect.
"Right now, we do have our specialty units in there, evaluating and investigating what actually did take place," Gissubel said, adding that she did not have any information about the possible connection between the man and woman or whether or not the woman might also have been armed.
The Cannon Building is one of three adjacent to the House side of the U.S. Capitol. Approximately 3,000 people, including roughly 100 members of Congress, work in Cannon's offices, with underground tunnels allowing them access to the Capitol. Since the building was remodeled in 1932, Cannon has been equipped with 85 two- or three-room suites, 10 single rooms and 23 committee rooms.
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