Breaking News: Shots fired at NASA


Alan Fud
April 20, 2007, 07:01 PM ... Gunman, hostage dead at NASA building, police say

HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- A gunman who took two hostages Friday at NASA's Johnson Space Center has apparently killed himself and one hostage, police said.

Another hostage has been taken to the hospital, said Houston Police Capt. Dwayne Ready.

The gunman forced the evacuation of the building and put the entire center on alert around 1:40 p.m. ET.

Earlier a witness in Building 44 on the campus reported two shots fired, said Ready, who described the suspect as a white man with blond hair, about 5 feet 9 inches and 50 to 60 years old. He had a handgun, said Ready.

Ready said he had barricaded himself in a room. The apparent suicide happened on the second floor of Building 44, he added.

The call for help came in to the Houston Police at 1:40 p.m. (2:40 p.m. ET) but it's unclear who made that call.

There is "extremely tight security" at Johnson Space Center, NASA spokesman James Hartfield said.

A NASA spokesperson told CNN that all employees have been told to go home for the day.

Space Center Intermediate School, less than a mile south of Building 44, was locked down, said Karen Permetti, spokeswoman for Clear Creek Independent School District. The lockdown was lifted at about 4 p.m. (5 p.m. ET).

The school has about 1,200 students, according to the school district.

As standard procedure, Mission Control's doors were locked, The Associated Press reported. ... Gunman kills hostage, self at NASA center
One other hostage found alive at Johnson Space Center building

A gunman killed a hostage inside a building at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on Friday, then shot himself to death as police commandos moved in, police said.

A second hostage was found alive inside Building 44 on the space center's campus, bound with tape, Houston Police Capt. Dwayne Ready told reporters.

The gunman's suicide brought the afternoon-long drama to a swift close. The building was evacuated after shots were reported to authorities, and for a time the entire space center as well as a nearby school was locked down.
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The gunman was reportedly a contract worker for NASA, but Ready declined to speculate on the motive for the shooting. He described the suspect as "a white male, approximately 50 to 60 years old, with one weapon, that being a handgun."

Neither the gunman nor the hostages were immediately identified.

Ready said witnesses told authorities that the gunman entered a second-floor office, and two shots were fired "in the early minutes of this whole deal." The deceased male hostage was apparently killed during that shooting, he said.

The gunman barricaded himself in a second-floor office with the second, female hostage while SWAT teams surrounded the building. Even as authorities tried to establish contact with the gunman, another gunshot was heard, Ready said. He said that prompted the SWAT officers to move in.

Officers found that the gunman had fatally shot himself in the head, Ready said. They also discovered the dead male hostage and the bound female hostage, he said. The female was under medical treatment, Ready said.

The gunman worked for a subsidiary of Jacobs Engineering Group, a contractor for NASA, company sources told KPRC. John Prosser, executive vice president for finance and administration at Jacobs Engineering Group, confirmed to that he had received those reports — but he could not provide any further information.

The Tennessee-based subsidiary, Jacobs Sverdrup, does "very extensive" work for NASA, including computer and engineering services, Prosser said.

Initially, NASA advised employees to "shelter in place until further notice." Later in the afternoon, employees were told they could leave the center grounds when their normal workday was over.

Space Center Intermediate School, which is adjacent to the campus, was placed temporariliy in lockdown mode as a precaution — but the children and staff were eventually allowed to go home.

Building 44 is a two-story communications and engineering office building set off in a relatively isolated area of Johnson Space Center's 1,600-acre campus, some distance from the Mission Control building.

In an advisory, NASA said Building 44 "primarily consists of office space and a few labs to support tracking of spacecraft, such as the international space station and the space shuttle when it's flying."

NASA spokeswoman Eileen Hawley told reporters that the incident caused "absolutely no disruptions to center operations."

A Soyuz craft is due to bring U.S. and Russian astronauts along with billionaire space passenger Charles Simonyi back to Earth on Saturday, but that operation is being managed from Russian Mission Control near Moscow, with the landing targeted for Kazakhstan. Johnson Space Center is also preparing for a space shuttle mission as early as June 8.

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April 20, 2007, 07:16 PM
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