Bainbridge Island police were called to city hall twice last week after employees became concerned about an agitated visitor who “became loud with staff,” and the city has since ramped up security procedures for the building.
The visitor came into city hall on Monday and Tuesday afternoon, city spokeswoman Kristen Drew said in an email to the Review.
“On both days, the person got agitated and became loud with staff and police were called and promptly responded. The customer left the building after speaking with police and no charges were filed,” Drew said.
City Manager Morgan Smith briefly recounted the incidents to the city council during its meeting last week.
Smith said the atmosphere at city hall had been “a little tenser” and added that city staff had “pretty significant discussions” about workplace security in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach by a disgruntled city employee where 12 people were killed and five were wounded. The gunman was later shot and killed by responding officers.
“We have those conversations and trainings and discussions routinely,” Smith told the council, but the Virginia Beach shooting was especially relevant for Bainbridge city employees.
“The staff is human and they care a lot about this,” she said.
Smith recalled that police were called twice to city hall.
On the afternoon of Monday, June 3, a uniformed officer was stationed in the public entryway to city hall.
Several changes to security at city hall have been made, Smith said.
City hall’s secondary public access, the entryway on Madison Avenue, will now be locked on the outside.
Smith also said that visitors who are meeting with city hall workers late in the afternoon will be escorted to the lobby outside the building’s security gate in the entryway when public access hours end at 4 p.m.
“We’re always thinking about building security,” Smith said.
A uniformed officer will be used when needed, she added, including at this week’s planning commission meeting.
According to police reports prepared by Bainbridge police, both incidents involved a 77-year-old Bainbridge man who came into city hall and made threats.
Both times, the silent panic alarm was tripped at city hall.
Following the second incident, which was just before 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, officers took the man outside the building after he was identified by a city employee, who said the visitor was loud and acting like a bully.
The Bainbridge man was upset with development on the island, and told the employee, a permit specialist in the building department, “I could take you out in a heartbeat. I’ve got the training.”
Smith, the city manager, told officers that the man exhibited unwanted behavior previously and was welcome at city hall only with an appointment.
When questioned by police, the man claimed it was the permit specialist who was bullying, and said he was trying to explain he could defend himself if attacked.
After he was told he needed an appointment for visits to city hall, the man said he was afraid he would be ignored.
Another police officer later talked to the man outside city hall, and noted he appeared very upset. He complained about the salaries of city employees and said the city manager was “obscenely overpriced.”
The man denied threatening anyone and said he didn’t do anything except raise his voice.
Police then spoke with the permit specialist, who said he did not feel threatened and did not want to pursue criminal charges against the man.