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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

False Alarm: No Active Shooter at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

The U.S. Navy confirmed that there was a false alarm at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this afternoon amid reports that an active shooter might be on the loose. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) tweeted that he was sheltering in place after being ushered into a conference room with 40 others at the Bethesda, Md., campus.

“This was not a drill,” Jeremy Brooks, a Naval Support Activity Bethesda public affairs officer, told HSToday. “It was a false alarm. Somebody reported what they thought was a situation, so they did what they were supposed to do, and our security forces responded, and they did what they were supposed to do. And once they were able to clear the area and there was a determination that there was no threat, they made the all-clear.”

The U.S. Navy incorrectly tweeted that the incident was an ad hoc drill.

Ruppersberger was at the hospital on personal business, and his tweets were published in stories about the alert by the Washington Post, ABC News, The Baltimore Sun, CBS Baltimore and many others.

“Drills are important, but we need to make sure people are aware that this was a drill,” Jaime Lennon, Ruppersberger’s spokeswoman, told HSToday. “At no point was Congressman Ruppersberger aware that this was a training exercise.”

Montgomery County Police also responded as if there was a possible active shooter.

Naval Support Activity Bethesda later tweeted that it was a false alarm and not part of a scheduled drill.

According to a study in the journal Science, false news on social media spreads faster than real news.

On Twitter between 2006 and 2017, “about 126,000 rumors were spread by 3 million people,” said the study. “False news reached more people than the truth; the top 1 percent of false news cascades diffused to between 1,000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1,000 people.”

James Cullum
Multimedia journalist James Cullum has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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