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Update: July 17, 2007

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BREAKING: Armed Standoff at Johnson Space Center


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There are breaking television reports that an armed man has barricaded himself inside a building at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Local SWAT teams are massing outside the building and there are reports of at least one shot fired, which is unconfirmed.

The entire complex is under lock down and people are being asked to stay where they are until they can be moved out under cover of police. The building with the gunman has already been evacuated.

NASA has not commented how an armed intruder made it past their building security at this time. This is a developing story.

Update: This incident began sometime between 1pm-2pm local time this afternoon, and there are continuing reports of shots fired on the scene, still unconfirmed. There is a nearby elementary school just 1 mile from the campus, though I didn't catch whether or not it has been evacuated as of yet.

Update 4:15: There are now reports coming in that there were between five and nine shots fired, still unconfirmed by the authorities.

Update 4:18: An email being circulated on the campus within the past half hour states that the building in question is "building 44." NASA and local authorities have denied that any shots have been fired. Cars are still coming and going from the complex and work is continuing in other buildings, due to the large size of the campus.

Update: 4:24 A NASA sub-contractor identified as Jacobs Engineering has said that the armed man is one of their employees. This would explain how this person gained access to what is obviously a secure government site, but not necessarily how he was able to gain entry with one or more firearms. The FBI is also now on-site.

Update 4:31 This quote via the Associated Press which confirms what we now know is possible.

"If you are an employee and have the correct badge and the correct sticker on your car, you can generally drive right in," former astronaut Dr. Bill Fisher said. "If this were a contractor or a NASA employee, that person would have almost unlimited access to the Space Center once you're through the gate. For someone who is not a NASA employee, they have to go through a number of security checks and they would have to get a special badge."


Reports are that Jacobs Engineering has been working at JSC for possibly two years, but that is not definitive proof that this employee has been there for this length of time. The media has the memo that JSC sent to the people on campus, but I do not have access to that at this time.

A spokesperson for Jacobs says he has no information to give and that the situation is in the hands of the police. Jacobs provides engineering services for the Intentional Space State.

Update 4:42 Information is starting to slow down a little now. SWAT still has the building secured, they believe they know exactly what room he is in inside the building and are making attempts to contact the gunman. Houston's bomb squad has arrived at the scene, and the doors to Mission Control have been sealed as a precautionary measure. This is likely the end of initial containment and the beginning of negotiation and information gathering.

A NASA representative just reported that it appears that the media has more information on the situation that she does and that she cannot confirm the reports of shots fired. She confirms that building 44 is completely evacuated and all adjacent buildings have been secured, including a near-by school.

Update 4:51 Children from a near-by school that is less than one mile from building 44 have been allowed to leave the area.

Update 5:11 Houston SWAT is bringing in armored vehicles, lights, and setting up a command post. There is no indication that this situation will last into the night, but they are preparing for it nonetheless.

Update 5:22 nasawatch.com is reporting that "A gunman walked into the room, pointed a gun at one person, and then ordered everyone out of the room" and that he is described as "white male 50 years old, blond hair, 5'9", no facial hair, slim build, light blue shirt and blue jeans" and is hold up on the second floor of building 44. There is a news conference scheduled to start at 5:30PM EDT.

Update 5:40
From the news conference -- Police arrived to a "shots fired" call, and upon believing the suspect may still be on the campus, they called in Houston SWAT. The suspect is a single white male, aged 50-60 years and is still as of yet unidentified. A single witness says the man was armed with one pistol and there is no information available as to whether or not the witness knew the suspect.

Negotiators are at the scene and at least one attempt at direct close-in contact has failed, but that effort is ongoing. Police have no information on a possible motive and cannot confirm if any people are unaccounted for.

The witness told police that he or she heard exactly two shots fired, which took place inside the building, but police have no information on what the target of that weapons fire may have been. Police do not currently know if the suspect is still alive.

Speaking for Houston police was Captain Dwayne Ready. I didn't catch the NASA spokeswoman's name. She told reporters that two memos were sent out across the campus about the incident, along with telephone calls to department heads, with the second memo stating that employees did not have to take cover or leave the premises and that they could finish their daily work and leave at their leisure.

It was confirmed that NASA has a policy in place for random vehicle searches, and the spokeswoman said that NASA will be reviewing those policies in the future to see if they can be improved. There are no disruptions to space center operations as of 5:45PM EDT.

Captain Ready would not give any information about why the bomb squad was called, due to this incident still being in progress. Another briefing is tentatively scheduled for 5PM CDT.

Update 6:08 An unattributed news report says that at least one person has been injured in relation to the standoff. The news conference scheduled for 5PM CDT has been canceled with no further updates.

...

A few minutes later a number of people have been seen moving in and out of the building, with speculative indications that the situation have changed. This may be related to the cancellation of the news conference that was scheduled for 5PM CDT.

Update 6:18 An ambulance delivered a stretcher to building 44, and coupled with the relaxed nature of the officers entering and exiting the building, it appears that the situation has ended. It is also being reported that a homicide unit is on the scene. There is still no official word.

The situation is over. While attempting to make contact with the suspect via negotiators, a single shot was heard. Entry by SWAT was made, and the suspect was discovered dead with a single shot to the head. There were in fact two hostages present, one male and one female. The female was bound and unharmed, the male was deceased.

This is not what this country needed more of.

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Apr 20, 2007, 4:37:00 PM
Refresh for live updates. I'll stay with this until the situation has been resolved.


Apr 20, 2007, 5:15:00 PM
A return mission from the International Space Station tomorrow will not be effected by this incident as that will be handled by the Russians. This looks like it may go on for quite a while.


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