BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After evacuating part of downtown Baltimore and an hours-long investigation, police now believe the suspicious van leaking gas in a parking garage near the Inner Harbor was being used to steal diesel fuel, and was not as hazardous as initially believed.
Mayor Jack Young said around 4 p.m. that no bomb was detected, however, officials continued precautionary security sweeps in an effort to ensure public safety.
Police are investigating after they found the suspicious van filled with containers of diesel fuel Monday morning. The cables coming from the van — which they initially believed to be for a nefarious reason — were being used to siphon diesel fuel.
As a precaution, police sent a robot to examine the van. That’s when they found out it wasn’t dangerous.
“(We) found that the devices that we thought could have possibly been hazardous were just used to basically steal diesel fuel,” said Col. Richard Worley with Baltimore City Police. “The van was basically loaded with diesel fuel and it had some cables running to it that made it look like it was probably going to be something more serious.”
— Avajoye Burnett (@AvajoyeWJZ) September 9, 2019
They said they have not spoken to the driver yet, but the amount of diesel fuel is not as much as they thought before.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted: “While there is no longer an active threat, we continue to closely monitor the situation in Baltimore. State law enforcement officials are on the scene and assisting with the investigation. Thank you to the police and first responders who acted quickly to secure the area.”
While there is no longer an active threat, we continue to closely monitor the situation in Baltimore. State law enforcement officials are on the scene and assisting with the investigation. Thank you to the police and first responders who acted quickly to secure the area. https://t.co/qgzdzM8ijY
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) September 9, 2019
Police and fire officials responded to the LAZ parking garage in the 100 block of E. Pratt Street near the Promenade around 9:13 a.m. after someone reported the smell of gas leaking from a van near the T. Rowe Price building.
Officials initially said the van had 1,000 gallons of gasoline in it, but around 4 p.m. adjusted their statement.
— Rachel Menitoff (@RachelMenitoff) September 9, 2019
A four-block radius around 100 East Pratt Street was evacuated, according to Mayor Jack Young and other police and fire officials. Eyewitnesses told WJZ that several office and commercial buildings in the area were evacuated — including the T. Rowe Price building, The Gallery, hotels and restaurants in the area.
“Basically the fire alarm went off around 11:30 or so and we’re just asked to leave the building,” said Cyriac Cherian.
Roads in the area have since reopened.
— Baltimore OEM (@BaltimoreOEM) September 9, 2019
The Charm City Circulator also suspended some stops due to the situation.
Purple route is resuming with a detour. Buses will travel south from 33rd St to Fayette then return north.
Banner route is resuming with one missed stop at Pratt Street.
Orange and Green routes are still suspended.
— CharmCityCirc (@CharmCityCirc) September 9, 2019
With traffic and public transportation at a standstill, some began to panic.
“We were on the bus and a lot of people on the bus were panicking, wanting to get off and get away,” said John Palmer.
Chopper 13 was over the scene Monday afternoon where you could see police officers and firefighters keeping roads in the area clear. You could also see K9 teams sweeping the area. Pedestrians were being directed away from the Promenade.
Even Capitol Police were involved in the response since they were already in town preparing for President Donald Trump’s scheduled visit to the city Thursday.
Later Monday night, Baltimore County officials investigated a report of a suspicious van also carrying more than 600 gallons of fuel near White Marsh. It is not yet known if the two incidents are connected.
Police are still looking into who is responsible for leaving the van full of fuel in the garage, but the diesel was transferred over to a city emergency vehicle before the van was towed away.