The Walter Reed campus is located off of Rockville Pike in Bethesda. Credit: U.S. Navy

An investigation into reports of an active shooter on Tuesday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda was caused by an accidental activation of an emergency alert system, according to the U.S. Navy.

While preparing for an upcoming drill, the notification system was inadvertently enacted without containing the words “exercise” or “drill,” according to a tweet from the Navy on Tuesday night.

People who saw the notification alerted security, who enacted an active shooter response. Further investigation found no shooter and improper use of the emergency alert system.

Authorities gave the ‘all clear’ signal around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday

Earlier in the afternoon, reports of a shooter exploded on social media, including one from U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, who tweeted at 2:31 p.m. that he was at the hospital and had been informed of an active shooter. He said he was safe in a conference room with approximately 40 other people. After the “all clear” sounded, he later tweeted that “at no point was there any indication that this was a drill.”

At 2:45 p.m., a Montgomery County police spokesperson said county police were called at 2:23 p.m. to assist with a situation at the medical center at 8901 Rockville Pike.


Rockville Pike was closed from Woodmont Avenue to Cedar Lane while authorities investigated the situation.

Naval Support Activity Bethesda tweeted at approximately 2:45 p.m. confirming reports of an active shooter in the basement of Building 19. However, initial reports indicated no signs of an active shooter, the organization said.

“If you are on the installation, go to the nearest available vehicle, structure, or building that provides a measure of protection and lockdown,” the organization tweeted. “If you are not on the installation, stay away.”


At 3 p.m., NSA Bethesda tweeted again, saying security had cleared the basement of Building 19, and the rest of the building was being cleared. At 3:23 p.m., an announcement over the medical center’s public address system announced the “all clear.” A NSA Bethesda tweet said, “Personnel may now now move freely about the base.”