Police evacuate part of U.S. Capitol complex over possible threats

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 09, 2015 12:39 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Authorities evacuated people from a U.S. Senate office building on Tuesday after receiving a bomb threat by telephone amid reports of two suspicious packages, U.S. Capitol Police said.

Police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider said Capitol Police received the call and are investigating reports of two suspicious packages in the Dirksen and Russell Senate office buildings near the U.S. Capitol.

Part of Dirksen was evacuated but people have not been cleared from Russell, Schneider said. Both buildings house various offices for U.S. senators and their staff as well as hearing rooms.

"Several floors in the (Dirksen building) have been evacuated as a precaution while the USCP (U.S. Capitol Police) continues to investigate," Schneider said in a statement.

The evacuation interrupted a Senate hearing on the Transportation Security Administration, which is responsible for security at airports.

Senator Ron Johnson, the Republican chairman of the committee holding the hearing, told CNN other areas of the Capitol complex were still open although there was no "all clear" yet for Dirksen.

Johnson said while sometimes such calls can be hoaxes, "we do live in an era of terrorism, and we have to take these threats seriously."

Live television footage of the hearing room showed Capitol police in the empty hearing room.

Outside Dirksen, authorities had blocked off an entrance and were preventing people from crossing the street nearby, according to a Reuters witness.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Will Dunham)