Montgomery County police move people away from the spot where a suspicious backpack was seen along Rockville Pike. Credit: Photos by Caitlynn Peetz

Rockville Pike was closed in both directions Saturday night after police discovered what they called a “suspicious package” in front of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where President Donald Trump is being treated for COVID-19.

However, after a period of investigating and examining the package, police gave an “all clear” sign that the scene was safe.

The package was a dark-colored backpack. When authorities determined that the backpack was not a threat, a man was allowed to claim it and leave.

Initially, Montgomery County police on the scene would not elaborate on the nature of the package, but forced hundreds of people who were present to move to the west side of Rockville Pike, away from the package.

At about 8:15 p.m., police forced bystanders to move even farther from the package.

A police K-9 and handler responded to the scene to examine the package. The dog spent less than 30 seconds sniffing the backpack. Police did not indicate what the dog determined.


A bomb squad was called in, spending about 20 minutes examining the scene and the backpack.

Law enforcement officials discovered the package shortly before 8 p.m. and immediately closed Rockville Pike to traffic.


Hundreds of people, mostly Trump supporters, were present, chanting and singing patriotic songs.

A notice was sent out at about 9:15 p.m. directing anyone at Naval Support Activity Bethesda, the base that includes Walter Reed, to shelter in place. “This is not a drill,” the message said.

Then, at about 9:25 p.m., after authorities determined that the area was safe, police again allowed people to move freely along Rockville Pike.