PROVIDENCE – Reports of a downtown gunman armed with a rifle were unfounded, according to city officials who provided an update late Tuesday.
Around 3 p.m., police were alerted to a threat to Providence City Hall and evacuated all staff and visitors from the building until the threat was cleared.
Temporary restrictions on the downtown area have now been lifted.
During a Tuesday press conference, Providence Police Col. Oscar L. Perez said the department received a call from a “very agitated” man claiming to be armed with an AR-15 rifle and several pipe bombs and said he had placed a bomb at City Hall.
A heavy presence of police with guns drawn had formed downtown in response, as first reported by WPRI-TV CBS 12.
The “high risk” response involved a special SWAT team unit who checked every floor of the Biltmore Garage, Perez said. No arrests were made, but police are still investigating the incident.
“We found nothing,” Perez said. “But that’s what we train for.”
Providence Police Maj. David Lapatin earlier told WPRI-TV that the department received a call that someone was going to shoot from the garage.
Three Providence police vehicles were seen parked in front of the Trinity Brewhouse restaurant at the intersection of Empire and Fountain streets, blocking the entrance to Fountain Street, at approximately 3:30 p.m.
The R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families placed its Friendship Street headquarters on lockdown out of an abundance of caution, according to an email sent to staff, WPRI-TV reported. DCYF said there was no known threat to the department.
The R.I. Public Transit Authority temporarily rerouted buses that normally service Kennedy Plaza. The public was advised to avoid the area.
Mayor Brett P. Smiley on Tuesday thanked law enforcement, the public, local property owners and “anyone in the city who may have experienced this disruption today” for their compliance.
Perez warned future and potential instigators of hoaxes that they will still be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“If they think it’s a joke, they will still be held accountable,” he said.
(UPDATES to the story throughout, including a recast of the first paragraph, information from Providence officials following a press conference and comments from Providence Police Col. Oscar L. Perez.)