REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - Employees on Redstone Arsenal sheltered in place for hours on Tuesday after emergency procedures were taken in response to reports of an active shooter. It turns out there was no shooter and no casualties.
So how did we get here?
Redstone Garrison Commander Colonel Thomas Holliday says it started with two separate 911 calls in the neighborhood of 9:45 Tuesday morning, both reporting something along the lines of an active shooter event at the Sparkman Center on Redstone Arsenal. Specifically, he says, "We did have initial reports of someone hearing shots fired and someone seeing a weapon."
It's now under investigation whether those calls were a hoax or not.
Regardless by 10 a.m., Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) sent out an alert stating, "An emergency situation exists near the Sparkman Center."
Still, confusion persisted for some time, as there was already an active shooter drill scheduled for this week, set to focus on the Sparkman Center.
Col. Holliday says, "There was a plan for an exercise, an active shooter exercise this week, this is not part of that exercise at all. And we don`t know if there was any bleedover. That has not been determined."
However, 24 minutes after the first alert went out from MSFC, Team Redstone sent out its own alert, calling the event a possible active shooter. It even advised, "Run hide fight."
Announcements boomed over Arsenal loudspeakers, warning people to stay in shelter. All gates were locked down. The security measures lasted for several hours.
In the meantime, everyone from the Governor to U.S. Senators and Representatives to the Mayor of Huntsville told us they were monitoring the situation.
However, while FBI and ATF officials told us they were on the scene for responding to the "possible active shooter," other key players in such an event indicated they had not been called upon to respond. Huntsville and Crestwood Hospital spokespeople told us they had not been alerted by the Arsenal. The Madison County Coroner's Office confirmed it had received no communication.
Huntsville Police and HEMSI Paramedics responded, though HPD officers primarily provided traffic control around the gates.
Approximately two-and-a-half hours into the ordeal, we spotted outgoing traffic leaving the Arsenal, with gates letting it pass through.
The event sparked other confusions across the city. The Marine Corps Reserve office on South Parkway also went on lockdown for a short period of time. Huntsville Police were called to respond to an active shooter event at Rainbow Daycare. They say a family member misheard the reports of a shooting at Redstone as a shooting at Rainbow and called 911.
It wasn't until 12:30 p.m. that Arsenal gates began to re-open, more than, roughly three hours after the initial 911 calls.
At 12:45, an Arsenal spokesperson confirmed that the situation was believed safe, though the response at that point was still geared toward a possible active shooter.
It wasn't until after 3 p.m. that we got the first confirmation there was, in fact, no active shooter found and no casualties to report. The initial confirmations coming from Army Contracting Command on Twitter, backed up shortly by Governor Kay Ivey speaking in Montgomery, and then confirmed in a news conference in the neighborhood of 4 p.m. by Arsenal officials.
Col. Holliday says it took time for investigators to clear the 1.5 million square foot Sparkman Center. WHNT News 19 has learned investigators eventually located people on the 2nd floor of the huge Sparkman Center who thought they`d heard a gunshot.
The ensuing investigation by Army's Criminal Investigation Division, and after action assessments will include the Arsenal's response and the motivation for the initial calls.
However, Holliday gave no indication of a timeline for finding those answers.
As for now, the Arsenal returns to business as usual on Wednesday, with no delays or closures expected.
The active shooter drill schedule for this week has been canceled.
If you'd like to look back through our reporting in real-time, our live blog preserves our in-the-moment reporting, giving you a sense of when we learned each critical detail.