Halifax Regional Police have charged a 30-year-old woman after a weapons complaint resulted in the evacuation of the Halifax Central Library on Sunday.
Police say that at approximately 4:51 p.m., officers responded to the library following a report of a person in the library with a firearm.
Michelle Rodriguez says she and her friends were in the library studying on the third floor at the time of the incident and were just about ready to pack up when a woman came over the PA system.
“At first, she’s very, very loud — like it hurt our ears — and she’s kind of sobbing at this point,” Rodriguez said in an interview on Monday. “She’s like, ‘everybody please evacuate the library,’ and I just see everybody’s faces and everybody panics.”
An alarm began to sound, and Rodriguez says that’s when people began scrambling towards the library’s central staircase.
Rodrgiuez says that she was skeptical of taking that exit as her first thought was that there was an active shooter in the building. Instead, she headed toward the emergency exit.
On the way down, her group of friends assisted a number of elderly people who were struggling to take the stairs.
“We were running down the stairs. It was chaos with people screaming and trying to get down,” Rodriguez said.
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Curtis Sutton, a spokesperson for Halifax Public Libraries, disputed the characterization of a chaotic evacuation in an emailed statement.
“An announcement was made throughout the building to ask community members to leave followed by the fire alarm sounding. Emergency lights throughout the building were flashing, a system in place to aid people who are hearing impaired, and staff ensured anyone who has mobility issues were assisted in leaving,” Sutton wrote.
“Central Library staff handled the evacuation with utmost professionalism when assisting community members in the evacuation and while working with Halifax Regional Police.”
As soon as Rodriguez got out of the building, she saw cop cars all along the plaza in front of the library. Soon after she took video which she shared on Twitter and with Global News.
“It was scary,” Rodriguez said. “At this point, everyone was making up their own little stories at this point, and that was the worst part of it, what was going on in our heads.”
Rodriguez says she eventually saw one woman being escorted out of the building by police.
Halifax Regional Police say they arrested two people without incident and seized a replica firearm, later identified as a pellet pistol.
Caitlan Greenwell, 30, is now scheduled to appear in Halifax Provincial Court to face charges of possession of a weapon dangerous to public peace and carrying a concealed weapon.
Police have not released information about the second individual who was arrested.
Sutton says that staff at the library followed their evacuation process during the incident.
“This is a process that staff members have been trained on and are prepared to act on when needed,” he wrote.
Rodriguez, who returned to the library on Monday to study, says yesterday’s incident seemed to scare some people from the building, which is typically packed during exam season.
“I don’t think people are interested in coming back to the library for a while.”