Indianapolis Star article


Threat Clears City-County Building

December 20, 2005
By Kevin O'Neal

Caller cited an explosive; 8,000 forced to evacuate

A bomb threat caused an evacuation of the City-County Building on Tuesday afternoon, sending 8,000 people streaming out of the building, shutting down courts and slowing Downtown traffic for three hours.

The rare evacuation of the 28-story building that serves as the heart of government in Indianapolis and Marion County was caused by a phone call that raised unusual suspicions.

"Without revealing exactly what was said, the call convinced us that they should be taken seriously," Deputy Mayor Steve Campbell said.

Authorities are searching for the person who made the threat. Police say a man called a city government office and gave a "credible threat" that an explosive was planted in the building.

The man had a Caribbean accent and called from a pay phone, said Capt. Phil Burton of the Marion County Sheriff's Department. Officials said the caller offered no motive for the threat.

Deputies using search dogs found two suspicious packages, one in the basement Drug Court and another near the first-floor main entryway. Neither proved hazardous.

One backpack held shoes, a Bible and a pocketknife, while the other package contained office supplies. Investigators were not sure why the items had been left in the halls.

The Sheriff's Department handles security for the building, and Burton said Sheriff Frank Anderson ordered the evacuation.

People were told not to use the elevators, so the evacuation took 30 to 50 minutes as people worked their way down the stairwells.

There were three reports of people who needed to be checked by medics after the evacuation.

Delight Morgan, who works in the finance office on the 22nd floor, said some people had difficulty walking down the stairs. One pregnant woman made it to the 13th floor, Morgan said, before being helped to an elevator.

Left inside were prisoners in the courts wing on the structure's west side, who had been brought from the Marion County Jail for hearings, Indianapolis Police Department Chief Michael Spears said. They were kept in holding cells, guarded by deputies, while the search was conducted.

Many of the city-county employees gathered across the street at City Market, and police brought in IndyGo buses as shelter from the 20-degree temperatures. Some people were taken by bus to Conseco Fieldhouse, where they waited in the lobby.

The all-clear was reported at 3:40 p.m., allowing workers to return to their offices. People involved in court cases were told to call those courts and arrange new dates for their proceedings.

The building has had airport-style security checkpoints since the Sept. 11 attacks. Except for government workers, all visitors to the building must pass through metal detectors and are subject to search by security guards.

Other than law enforcement officers, anyone caught bringing a weapon or an object considered to be dangerous inside must leave or surrender the weapon with no chance of getting it back.