Police: No gun actually seen at Gannett building in Fairfax Co. Wednesday

A helicopter is seen circling the area of the Gannett building on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. (WTOP/Max Smith)

After a report of a man with a weapon at the Gannett building in Fairfax County, Virginia, prompted an evacuation and a large police presence in the Tysons area Wednesday, police are now saying that no one had actually been seen with a gun and that “no criminal activity occurred.”

In an update Friday, Fairfax County police laid out what led to the call Wednesday.

Police said it started when a former employee of a business within the building “sent a suspicious group text message to some of his former colleagues” but that no direct threats had been made. Police did not mention which business within the building.

The next day, police said, an employee in the building overheard two co-workers talking about the text message. Because of a language barrier, a cellphone translator program was used, interpreting the message as “a present threat of a man in the building with a gun,” police said.

With the information they received, building security then called police.

But police said on Friday, “Our investigation determined that no one was actually seen with a gun, and we do not have any evidence that the subject who sent the text message was at the building on Wednesday.”

On Wednesday, police responded to a call just before noon about a former employee in the building armed with a weapon. There were no reports of gunfire, and no one was injured.

“This was a nonevent,” Chief Edwin Roessler told reporters Wednesday after police had searched the building floor by floor. Still, he added, “We need to look at this as a positive event,” because it meant people were training themselves to “see something, say something.”

The building, at 7950 Jones Branch Drive, is right by the Capital Beltway and is surrounded by other businesses.

WTOP’s Rick Massimo contributed to this report. 

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