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WASHINGTON — Officials at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal received two emergency phone calls of an active shooter on post Tuesday morning, but an investigation determined the reports of the incident that locked down the north Alabama installation for several hours were unfounded.

The base near Huntsville that houses some 40,000 employees was locked down for about three hours after officials received reports of a “potential active shooter” in one of the largest buildings on the post, said Army Col. Thomas Holliday, Redstone’s garrison commander. After a thorough search of the building, reports of shots being fired and of an individual with a firearm were deemed “not credible,” he said.

A gunman was never located and no one was injured during the incident, Holliday said.

The 911 emergency calls came from inside one of six buildings at the installation’s John J. Sparkman Center for Missile Excellence, which remained shut down for an additional two hours after officials lifted the lockdown of the remainder of the base, Holliday said. The size of the facility, which houses Army Aviation and Missile Command headquarters, forced officials to leave the lockdown in place for hours as they searched. The Sparkman Center’s main building is about 1.5 million square feet, Holliday said.

“You have to understand the size of that building,” he told reporters hours after the lockdown had been lifted. “It does take time to ensure that every single room, every single person is contacted and cleared.”

Holliday said it is necessary to treat every potential threat seriously.

“The situation we live in in the United States today leads to the need for caution,” he said. “Honestly, if we have to overreact I’d rather overreact than underreact.”

The incident occurred just one day before Redstone had planned an active shooter drill for the post. That exercise will no longer occur, Holliday said.

On Tuesday morning, the post notified the public via social media and email blasts that Redstone had been locked down and people were ordered to shelter in place.

“Possible active shooter on the Arsenal,” Redstone Arsenal’s official Twitter account stated late Tuesday morning. “Installation is locked down. Run hide fight.”

The vast majority of employees at the post are civilian and contract workers. Only about 1,500 servicemembers are stationed at Redstone.

In addition to hosting Army Aviation and Missile Command, which tests and develops missile programs, the nearly 38,000 acre post hosts about 70 other organizations, including the Army’s Material Command, FBI and ATF agents, Air Force units and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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