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Shelter-in-place order closed off downtown Fort Lauderdale for an hour after reports of gunman on a balcony

Police lights. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Police ordered downtown residents to shelter in place early Friday afternoon while they confronted a man armed “with a possible gun” on a balcony, but said it was not an active shooter incident.

Officers successfully took the man into custody and lifted the shelter in place a little over an hour later.

The drama began to unfold shortly before noon, when police officers began redirecting traffic near the 300 block of Southwest First Avenue, telling drivers to use Broward Boulevard instead.

Twenty minutes later, police declared a shelter in place.

“Anyone in the area south of Broward Boulevard between Andrews Avenue to Southwest 3rd Avenue/Nugent Avenue should stay inside,” the police department tweeted about 12:15 p.m.

The situation did not involve an active shooter, police said in an update posted about an hour later, but they continued to tell residents to shelter in place for their safety while officers tried to communicate with the man.

“This is NOT an active shooter incident and there have been no injuries reported as of now,” the police department tweeted at 1:14 p.m. “Please continue to shelter in place for your safety.”

Finally, a little after 1:30 p.m., the police department lifted the shelter-in-place order and said that the man was taken into custody.

“We are grateful no one was injured as a result of this incident,” the department said in a tweet.

Many people bustling around downtown only an hour later had no idea about the brief drama that had evolved, including some who were working right next to the building where it took place. Others were simply annoyed to have lost business during lunch hour.

Michael Conenna, owner of Las Olas Pizza Company, described the scene in front of his restaurant on Southwest First Avenue as “fully tactical.”

His store lost their lunch hour business Friday because of the police presence, he said. The restaurant also delivers with Uber eats, and drivers weren’t able to get down the street.

A similar incident happened nearby in October, when a man barricaded himself in a Wilton Manors dental office with what he claimed was a bomb. People nearby were largely more disturbed by the loss in revenue than the potentially dangerous situation that law enforcement had thwarted.

At Dolce Salato, a pizza restaurant across from the dental office, workers had used back streets to deliver pizzas to people who couldn’t get through the police barricades. That worked until the police department called the restaurant and asked why they were still open, the owner, Leonardo Baldi, said at the time. But he never felt “unsafe,” he said.

The bomb was later revealed to be a hoax.

Police did not respond to questions Friday afternoon over whether the man on the Fort Lauderdale balcony was in fact armed, or what charges he will face. The investigation remains active, Casey Liening, a spokesperson for the Fort Lauderdale police department, said in an email


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