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Man in ‘panda suit’ allegedly makes bomb threat at TV station

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BALTIMORE – A man wearing an animal onesie, a surgical mask and carrying what appeared to be explosives was shot by police Thursday after a standoff at a Baltimore television news station, authorities said.

The incident began about 1:20 p.m. with a call to police about a man in an animal outfit who displayed “what appeared to be some type of explosive device” at the offices of FOX45, police spokesman T.J. Smith said.

 

In the vestibule, the man in the onesie displayed a flash drive and said he wanted to air information comparable to the Panama Papers, FOX45 News Director Mike Tomko told reporters, according to the CNN affiliate. The Panama Papers are leaked documents that alleged some world leaders used secret offshore companies and accounts to hide billions of dollars.

The intruder said he had a bomb and “a message he wanted to be heard” before handing a flash drive to security guard Joural Apostolides, according to the guard. Apostolides told the station he checked the content of the drive on a computer and it had to do with astronomy, black holes and space. He and the intruder talked about 45 minutes.

 

“At first I thought it was a joke,” the security guard said. “I mean, he was wearing a hedgehog onesie. So I didn’t really think it was serious, but then he kept on saying he didn’t want to hurt anyone and … I told him that I understood that and, if he wanted to sit tight, I would try to help him out.”

Station employees and visitors, meanwhile, were safely evacuated from the building as a precaution. Employees and bystanders later stood near the station watching the drama unfold, as police surrounded the building and a helicopter hovered above.

Around the same time, Smith said, a car outside the station had been set ablaze, with a rag inside the gas tank. Police said it was unclear whether the arson and the standoff were connected.

The man in the mask, in his 20s, came out of the building at one point and advanced toward police officers, ignoring their orders to take his hands out of his pockets, according to Smith.

A police sniper shot the man, whose condition is unknown, Smith said. A bomb squad robot was used to communicate with the man.

“Why did he do this?” Smith asked. “We don’t know the answer to that.”

CNN correspondent Brian Stelter reported from the scene that officers were following the man out of the building and shots were heard after he didn’t obey their commands. He said members of the media crouched behind vehicles.

The man’s condition was unknown but the station’s chief meteorologist, Vytas Reid,said he believes the man survived.