Police evacuated The Hutchinson News building early Thursday morning after an employee working in the mailroom reported someone was trying to shoot into the building.
Officers arriving on the scene found nothing unusual, but evacuated the building while it was searched, said Sgt. Garrett Leslie. The dozen employees in the building were escorted to the lobby of the Law Enforcement Center to wait.
As first-shift workers began to arrive, they also were directed to the LEC.
It was determined the person who made the call was among those in the lobby, Leslie said.
Dominic P. "Rico" Zales was arrested on suspicion of aggravated criminal threat, causing a building to be evacuated as the result of a threat. His bond was set at $2,500.
Zales had started working at The News late Wednesday night as a temporary worker, Leslie said.
“We got a call on an armed subject at The News right at the start of our shift,” Leslie said, which was around 6:15 a.m. “The caller reported to dispatch a subject was trying to shoot through the windows of the building, and that several employees were hiding behind their desks or under machines inside the business.”
Officers set up a perimeter around the building, but didn’t see anything from outside the building.
“It seemed to be business as normal, with employees loading stuff in the west garage,” Leslie said. “There was an open door on the north where they were working and it was business as usual. We surprised the employees as much as we were shocked going on the call.”
While interviewing the employees, it was determined Zales, who started his first shift at The News at 11 p.m., had made the call and he was detained. Other employees were allowed to return to work by 7:30 a.m.
“We didn’t locate anything,” Leslie said. “At this point, we believe it was a hoax. We don’t have a motive, but it’s an ongoing investigation.”
Court records show Zales was convicted in September on several counts, including possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and felony possession of a firearm, and was placed on 36 months of probation in October. The conviction stemmed from drug sales in August 2018 in Hutchinson.
Zales has a prior conviction for criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied dwelling or vehicle out of Labette County in 2008 and criminal threat in Crawford County in 2015, Department of Correction records indicate.