There were reports of an active shooter barricaded on the third floor of Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, Texas, but police later said they found no evidence of a shooter and no victims.
Houston police turned up nothing after an extensive search of the hospital.
Confusion ignited in the early panic. Police said they were responding to a shooting report. One media report had said there was an active shooter on the second floor of the hospital, and it was being evacuated. The reports focused on the second floor, and news reports showed dramatic scenes of patients in hospital gowns being led from the hospital.
Another report said the shooter was barricaded on the third floor of the hospital. The Houston Chronicle reported, according to a law enforcement source, that, around 3 p.m. CST, “An active shooter has been cornered in Ben Taub Hospital as the Houston SWAT team responded to reports of shots fired inside the building.” However, police later gave a briefing saying no shooter was found.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Houston Police Confirmed There Were Reports of a Shooting at the Hospital but They Found Nothing
What’s known for sure: Houston police received reports of a shooting. And they now say, after combing the hospital, they found no evidence of a shooting or of a gunman.
Houston police had confirmed that they were responding to reports of shots fired, and the SWAT team was also en route. The Houston Chronicle initially quoted a law enforcement source as saying, “There is an active shooter situation. He’s barricaded on the third floor. They’ve got him isolated and barricaded and they don’t expect it to take very long.”
Officials then appeared to debunk that, however, as the situation unfolded.
Police released few other details early on in the incident.
Police were conducting a secondary sweep of the hospital to be sure.
However, by 3:30 EST, it appeared that it might have been a false alarm. “Patients in the Emergency Room told the Chronicle that hospital staff originally said the flurry of action was part of a drill but then began disconnecting patients from their IVs,” The Chronicle reported.
2. There Were Social Media Reports of People Hiding in Closets
Whether there was really a shooter or not, the reports caused a lot of fear as patients fled (or were wheeled out) of the hospital, armed officers descended on the building, news choppers whirred overhead, and local TV stations went live. One man reported on social media that his friend was a nurse and was “hiding in a closet.”
A doctor told the news media he had left the building but co-workers were hiding on the second floor. An eyewitness told Fox 26 Houston that he was on the third floor when he learned there was a shooter on the second, and he was not allowed to use the elevator.
News crews captured pictures of patients gathered outside on the hospital grounds. Some were lying in hospital beds. One witness told ABC 13 he heard people shouting “code white.” That term means people should stay away from the hospital, the TV station reported, quoting a witness as saying, “The doctors came in and said that there had been shots fired on the second floor. To be in this situation is scary.”
3. More Than 200 Police Officers Responded to the Reports & Multiple People Reported Hearing ‘Drop the Gun’
According to Fox News, the police chief said police received multiple reports “of a white male of an unknown age described as the suspect around 1:58 p.m. local time” and more than one reported they heard a man say “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!”
Fox reported that police “are checking security cameras, in addition to interviewing those that called 911, to figure out what exactly sparked the commotion.”
The law enforcement response was massive; ABC13 reported that at least 200 police officers responded to the hospital, some with assault rifles.
According to The Houston Chronicle, the reports began coming in around 2 p.m. on February 21.
A group of fifth grade students was at the hospital the hour before the shooting reports, but it was not clear whether they had already left when the incident began, the Chronicle reported.
4. A News Helicopter Caught Images of Police Moving Toward the Building
Patients and staff were evacuated as police moved cautiously toward the building. The hospital was on lockdown, according to social media reports.
Photographs also captured police moving up a stairwell inside the hospital.
5. There Was a Hostage Situation in October at the Same Hospital
The hospital is named after the son of Jewish immigrants. That raised concerns because there has been a spate of harassment against Jewish facilities in recent days.
Bomb threats were called into Jewish Community Centers across the country, and a Jewish cemetery was desecrated in St. Louis, Missouri, leading President Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka (who is Jewish) to condemn those attacks. However, there is no evidence the Houston hospital shooting had any hate crime motivation.
In October 2016, an inmate took a medical student hostage at the hospital before being shot by a deputy.
This post will be updated as more information comes in.