Politics

Mayor Hancock on Credible Threat That Locked Down City and County Building

Mayor Michael Hancock outside the post-lockdown City and County Building with, from left, Deputy Mayor Murphy Robinson, Director of Safety Troy Riggs and Deputy Police Chief Barb Archer.
Mayor Michael Hancock outside the post-lockdown City and County Building with, from left, Deputy Mayor Murphy Robinson, Director of Safety Troy Riggs and Deputy Police Chief Barb Archer. Michael Roberts
The lockdown is over at Denver's City and County Building, which was closed off early on February 27 because of what were deemed credible threats. And officials clearly took these warnings seriously, as was stressed in a press conference co-starring a slew of powerful officials, including Mayor Michael Hancock.

By 2:20 p.m. today, DPD had identified the suspect believed to be responsible for this morning's threats. "The individual is believed to be in crisis and at this time we are working to obtain services on his behalf," the department tweeted around 2:20 p.m. "Due to his condition, we will not provide this person's identity. There is no ongoing threat to the public at this time."

First word of the situation came via a tweet from the Denver Police Department at 8:26 a.m. on the 27th. "ALERT: #DPD was alerted to a threat to #Denver’s City & County Building and is currently investigating the matter," it revealed.

Almost simultaneously, Denver Sheriffs FOP Lodge #27 (the initials stand for "Fraternal Order of Police") issued a tweet of its own. It reads: "Breaking news the city and county bldg on bannock is currently on lock down due to a credible threat to shoot the mayor." In response to a follow-up question, the FOP credited this information to "sources that have called this into our office."

During the lockdown, a dozen or so police vehicles were parked in front and near the building, and no one was allowed in or out.

click to enlarge Police vehicles surrounded the City and County Building during the lockdown. - MICHAEL ROBERTS
Police vehicles surrounded the City and County Building during the lockdown.
Michael Roberts
Then, around 9:15 a.m. or so, cops emerged from various exits as employees were admitted again.

A collection of media types congregated on a sidewalk opposite the building around an officer who appeared to have been designated as a spokesperson. But just before he was about to speak, he received a phone call that lasted ten minutes or so — and afterward, he told the press that DPD public-information officer Sonny Jackson would provide an update.

When Jackson arrived, he told reporters he would join them in a minute before heading into the building and staying there for the better part of half an hour.

Mere seconds before the journalists, including yours truly, froze solidly enough in the morning's bitter chill to inspire a song by Idina Menzel, Jackson emerged with a crowd: Hancock, Deputy Mayor Murphy Robinson, Director of Safety Troy Riggs, Deputy Police Chief Barb Archer and a number of additional aides and colleagues. As seen in the following video taken and tweeted by Jackson on behalf of the DPD, Hancock spoke first:

Hancock initially stressed that the threat was made against the building rather than him personally, though he later suggested that further analysis of the recorded call or calls from the suspect might reveal that specific individuals (perhaps including him?) might have been targeted. He also pointed out that threats of the sort that prompted the lockdown are becoming more common across the country before leaving it to the deputy mayor to provide more details.

Robinson subsequently revealed that the original threat had been phoned in at around 7:30 a.m. — and because it arrived at such an early hour, before many employees had arrived, the decision was made to shut everything down so that security could go through the building thoroughly. Two complete sweeps were completed, but nothing dangerous or suspicious was found.

Archer wouldn't confirm the nature of the threat or whether it involved mentions of shootings or explosives.

In the question-and-answer portion of the presser, a reporter asserted that this was the first time the City and County Building had been locked down in at least five years. None of the officials confirmed that, but Hancock said this wasn't the first major threat to focus on the facility. Indeed, he pointed out that the section of Bannock in front of the building had been closed to traffic because of incidents involving vehicles that had raised concerns.

This post was updated to include the latest on the suspect, on-the-scene reporting about the City and County Building lockdown, and comments from Mayor Michael Hancock and other Denver officials.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts