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Naval Station Great Lakes lockdown lifted; officials say base employee passed security point without providing credentials

Great Lakes is the home of the United States Navy's only boot camp, located near North Chicago, in Lake County, Ill. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Naval Station Great Lakes was placed on lockdown Friday morning after a car driven by a base employee went through a security checkpoint without providing credentials, according to authorities.

“We had a gate runner at 7:09 a.m. where someone drove through the entry control area without showing credentials and kept going,” said John Sheppard, a spokesman for the base near North Chicago.

The gate runner was later identified as an employee of the base who drove his vehicle through the checkpoint, causing the base to shut down access early Friday morning. By mid-morning, restrictions had been lifted for all entrances except the main gate.

Sheppard said in a statement that “the driver did not follow directions of the gate sentry,” and that an investigation was ongoing. He did not know if any charges were being considered.

“With support from local, state and federal law enforcement, the vehicle was found at approximately 9:30 a.m., and shortly thereafter the driver was located,” he said.

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The gate runner, driving a black Toyota Camry, made the unauthorized entry at approximately 7 a.m., and Sheppard said the vehicle and surrounding area was swept by military working dogs. Several buildings were also evacuated.

There were no reported injuries or damage to property.

In a tweet following the entry, everyone on the base was told to “take cover in nearest building or structure. Await instructions. All gates are closed.”

A graduation on the base, scheduled for 9 a.m., was postponed until 10 a.m. because of the lockdown, according to the base.

“Attention families and friends of graduation this morning,” reads a Facebook post by the U.S. Navy Recruit Training Command. “Due to a variety of circumstances this morning, the graduation ceremony is delayed by one hour.”

The base is the Navy’s largest training installation and the home of the Navy’s only boot camp. It covers more than 1,600 acres along Lake Michigan.

At the nearby J Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, traffic was closed completely until just after 8 a.m., when one entrance was opened for incoming traffic only.

“All, please be aware, our gates are closed with the exception of the Green Bay entrance, incoming traffic only. We will conduct 100% ID checks for anyone entering that gate,” according to the Lovell Center Facebook page.

“We are coordinating increased security measures with Naval Station Great Lakes in response to an active threat,” according to the posted statement.

Earlier this month, the hospital complex took “precautionary measures” at its facility in North Chicago by closing all entrances except the main gate on Buckley Road, which is now manned by police. The heightened security came after the death of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. airstrike and a terrorist attack on a military base in Kenya.

“We are taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety and security of all patients, staff and visitors to our facility, in the wake of recent world events,” according to a statement on Facebook and the veteran hospital’s website.

The closed entryways are at the intersection of Green Bay Road and Cavin Drive as well as other auxiliary entrances. The main entrance at Buckley Road and Lewis Avenue will also have officers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Police manning the gate.

Jayna M. Legg, public affairs specialist for the Lovell Center, said during the second week of January that officials, “are just taking extra precautionary steps that we have done in the past.”

This week, Naval Station Great Lakes announced in a statement it was preparing to participate in the scheduled exercise Citadel Shield-Solid Curtain (CS/SC) 2020, which is set to take place Feb. 3-14. All Navy installations within the continental United States participate in the annual two-week anti-terrorism and force protection (ATFP) exercise.

Citadel Shield takes place the first week under the direction of the Commander of Navy Installations Command (CNIC), and the following week, Solid Curtain under the direction of the commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC).

“During CS/SC, Navy security forces undergo realistic scenarios intended to help maintain a high level of readiness,” according to the statement.

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© 2020 Chicago Tribune

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