September 17, 2011 in Nation/World

Air base lockdown was false alarm

No gunman found after five-hour search
Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Tucson Police officers direct traffic away from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base after the Air Force base placed on lockdown Friday.
(Full-size photo)

TUCSON, Ariz. – Early on, it looked ominous when an Air Force base on the southern edge of Tucson was locked down Friday morning amid unconfirmed reports of gunfire. In the end, no shots were fired, and no weapons and gunman were found.

Traffic into the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base was limited as the unspecified security situation was first announced. Schools on the base were locked down. Ambulances and fire engines were rushed to the base, and a TV station reported that emergency workers were responding to a possible patient with multiple gunshot wounds.

This southern Arizona city was already rattled by January’s shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others. And then there was the specter of the 2009 shooting in Texas at Fort Hood.

But, as it turned out, no shots were fired. And an ambulance that went to the sprawling base where 6,100 airmen and 1,700 civilians work turned out to be responding to a more conventional call: A woman had gone into labor.

Col. John Cherrey, commander of the base, said officials were satisfied it was safe after a “floor-by-floor, room-by-room” search of the building where a gunman was reported.

“No gunman or weapon was found,” Cherrey said. The commander, who held a two-minute news conference to discuss the five-hour lockdown, didn’t answer questions from reporters.

Sgt. Maria Hawke, a Tucson police spokeswoman, said base officials told the department that its SWAT, bomb and hostage negotiation squads were no longer needed at the scene. Hawke said she didn’t know how the situation was resolved.

Alison Bunnell, who lives at the base with her husband and their four children, was turned away during the lockdown when she tried to return to the base.

She said she wasn’t worried.

“We have exercises all the time,” Bunnell said.

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