The Maryland State House was locked down for two hours on Thursday evening, as scores of police officers scoured the building following a phoned-in threat from a man claiming to be armed and on his way to the building, officials said.

Ultimately, the area was found to be clear of any potential threat after no gunman or weapon were found.

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The call came into the Annapolis Police Department at about 5 p.m. from an “unknown male subject saying they were approaching the state capitol with a gun,” said Annapolis Police Department spokesman Bernie Bennett.

Gov. Wes Moore, Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller and Senate President Bill Ferguson were all in the building at the time, as were state employees and journalists. Eventually, all were evacuated.

Moore was taken across the street to the governor’s mansion, where mayors from around the state were gathered for a reception, according to his spokesman, Carter Elliott IV.

People in the State House — including two Baltimore Banner reporters working on the ground floor — were urged to close and lock their doors as police swept through the building shorty after 5 p.m.

About half a dozen people in the darkened press workroom sat quietly on the floor, nervously waiting to learn what was happening. Elsewhere in the building, people hid in their closed offices as well.

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Police officers were stationed outside the governor’s home on Feb. 29, 2024, after the capitol complex was locked down for about two hours due to a threat. No weapons were found and the buildings were later cleared. (Kaitlin Newman)

Meanwhile, legislative business continued at two office buildings down the street, where senators and delegates were holding hearings and voting sessions in committee rooms.

Annapolis Police, Maryland Capitol Police and others responded to secure the State House. Police and emergency vehicles ringed the State House and surrounding streets that were shut down. Numerous officers were posted around the State House, governor’s mansion and office buildings in the complex.

As of 6:15 p.m., Bennett said no suspect or weapon have been found.

Information about the threat was quickly passed on to agencies that patrol and protect the state government campus, including Maryland Capitol Police and Maryland State Police, officials said.

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Nick Cavey, the communications director for the state Department of General Services, which includes the Maryland Capitol Police, said the complex went into lockdown “within minutes” of the threat being called in.

Maryland Capitol Police coordinated sweeps of the State House, Senate and House buildings and surrounding grounds and concluded the areas were secure and clear of any potential threat, Cavey said. The lockdown and shelter in place were lifted at 6:52 p.m.

“State House grounds have resumed standard security procedures and protocol,” Cavey said.

Police assembled outside of the Maryland State House on Feb. 29, 2024, after a threat caused the building to be evacuated.
Police assembled outside of the Maryland State House on Feb. 29, 2024, after a threat caused the building to be evacuated. (Kaitlin Newman)

The threat and lockdown come at a busy time for the state’s capitol, in the middle of the 90-day session of the General Assembly. The state complex is filled with lawmakers, lobbyists, activists, journalists and tourists.

Very little information was conveyed to people working and visiting the complex while the lockdown was happening.

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At the time of the lockdown, most delegates and senators were not present in the State House building itself. Some workers with offices in the State House had left for the day.

At the governor’s mansion — officially called Government House — mayors from across Maryland were gathered for a planned 5 p.m. reception with Moore.

Mayors were standing outside the gate waiting to be let in when several police SUVs raced to the scene with lights flashing and sirens screaming.

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Jeannine James, mayor of La Plata in Charles County, said she knew something was going on when one car after the other showed up and cops filed out, unpacking their trunks.

“Then, I saw the long gun come out,” she said.

James said she watched four police officers with weapons drawn run into the lower level of the State House in a line, each with a hand on the person’s shoulder in front of them. The mayors were ushered into the governor’s garden.

Andrzej Marciniak, Port Tobacco’s top official, was ushered inside. He said he knew something was happening when he saw some law enforcement officers dressed in green “battle fatigues” carrying long guns.

Once inside the mansion, Marciniak said the mayors made small talk and received periodic updates from the governor’s staff, but they weren’t told much. They were told the governor may not be available to meet with them for long, if at all.

At one point, someone told the mayors to move away from the windows.

”A lot of people were concerned,” Marciniak said. “Some people I would say were afraid. It was a very unique situation.”

After some time, the governor did make a brief appearance and spoke to the group. Marciniak said the mayors left just after 7 p.m. and walked out the front door past law enforcement wearing helmets, night vision goggles and tactical gear.

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During the lockdown, police officers were seen running inside the State House building with weapons drawn.

Police knocked on the doors of ground-floor press offices where people were hiding just after 5:30 p.m. and asked if anyone was inside. Reporters opened the door and were told to evacuate through a hallway lined with officers with guns drawn. They were taken first to Lawyers Mall and then to an empty hearing room in the House of Delegates office building, where they were held by police for more than an hour.

The group held in the House of Delegates hearing room included journalists, state employees, high school student pages and others. Like the mayors, they were let out at about 7 p.m.

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In a statement, Moore expressed gratitude to the law enforcement agencies who secured the area.

“These brave men and women aren’t just Maryland’s finest — they’re Maryland’s promise. They define what it means to be a Marylander,” Moore said in a statement.

House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and Ferguson issued a joint statement after the lockdown was lifted: “We want to thank all the law enforcement officers who responded today. We and everyone else in the legislative complex are grateful for their presence as we continue to do the people’s work.”

This isn’t the first threat to the State House this year: In early January, there was a bomb threat, at the same time that threats were emailed to state capitol buildings around the country, the website Maryland Matters reported on Jan. 3. There was slightly increased police activity around the complex that day, but nothing of the scale of the massive law enforcement presence on Thursday night.

The State House and surrounding government buildings have tight security. Visitors are asked to show identification, belongings are scanned, and they are asked to walk through a magnetometer. Capitol Police officers and state troopers are posted throughout the complex.

Baltimore Banner Reporters Lillian Reed and Hugo Kugiya contributed to this story.

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