A man claiming to be God rammed a stolen dump truck through the front of a Baltimore-area television station Tuesday, leaving a gaping hole in the structure and touching off an hours-long standoff with heavily-armed police before he was taken into custody.
Police received a 911 call around 11:45 a.m. about a man banging on the door of WMAR-TV's building and trying to get into the station, Baltimore County public safety spokeswoman Elise Armacost said. Within minutes, there was a second 911 call reporting that a vehicle had come into the newsroom.
Reporters and other staff immediately fled the building, and a SWAT team, unsure if the suspect was armed, took up positions for the next few hours.
The crisis was over by 4:30 p.m., as authorities moved into the building and arrested the suspect, described by police as a 5-foot-10 black man, without incident, officials said.
There were no injuries.
"It was clear from the very beginning that we were dealing with a mentally or emotionally disturbed subject," Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson said at an afternoon press conference. He added that the suspect, whose name was not released, was inside the station watching local news coverage of the standoff.
The suspect was taken to a local hospital for treatment, and will eventually face criminal charges.
The truck belonged to a landscaping company and was stolen from a work site less than five miles from the scene, police said.
A hole the size of several garage doors could be seen in the front of the two-story building, which has a newsroom and studio on the first floor. About 120 people work there, according to the station's owner, the E.W. Scripps Co. The building sits on a busy street connecting the suburbs with Baltimore, near the city-county line, and though parts of the road were blocked, drivers could still access an adjacent shopping center.
Next door, a school was locked down, but students — escorted by staff to their parents — began leaving about 2:30 p.m.
Journalists inside the building described a scene of confusion and fear.
WMAR-TV News Director Kelly Groft told The Associated Press in a phone interview that when the truck began ramming the lobby around noon Tuesday, she screamed for everyone in the newsroom to leave.
"Once the lobby started to collapse, we knew it was time to get out," she said. "He drove right through the doors and into the main area."
Michael Marion, head of commercial production for the station, said that about 11:45 a.m., he heard from his office -- right off the lobby -- someone rattling violently against the security door. He said the person was demanding to be let in and saying, "I am God, I am God."
Marion said he went to lobby, then a neighboring office, and looked out a window and saw a large vehicle trying to ram the building.
"I heard a series of crashes," he said outside the station Tuesday afternoon. "The next thing, I looked in the lobby, and the only thing between truck and the lobby was the final door. I heard one final crash. I looked through the door, and by then the truck was pulling in the lobby."
Marion said he didn't see anyone get out of the truck, and he and a co-worker moved into a lower portion of the building, where they found a fellow employee in an office who hadn't heard the crash. The group left through the back gate, Marion said.
"Everyone behaved really well," Marion said. "People of their own volition said, `It's time to leave the building.' No one panicked."
Groft said they did a head count, although some people had hopped in cars and drove away. The station also warned employees out on stories not to return to the station.
Brian Kuebler, an investigative reporter at the ABC affiliate, said in a phone interview that he heard a commotion from his office and walked into the lobby in time to see the truck's last three rams.
"I never even saw him. I just saw the truck," Kuebler said. "That's when it started to get pretty real. This guy was intent on getting into the building. It was pretty frightening."
When police arrived, they moved everyone back, he said.
"We have the news to do and we're sitting in the parking lot," he said. "It's a little weird. I've never been the story in my career."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.