A man armed with a handgun slipped into the Orange County Courthouse on Sunday morning and scuffled with a county marshal, triggering an all-day search of the 11-story building by several SWAT teams.
Lt. Robert Rivas of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said Sunday night that the lone gunman had not been located in the courthouse complex on Civic Center Drive after teams had combed a large portion of the structure. Authorities said the search would continue until the facility was secure.
Rivas said the building, which is the hub of the county's justice system, should be open today but with increased security measures.
"There have been no threats as far as a bomb," Rivas said, "but I would imagine that courthouse security would be a concern for the county marshal's service."
The incident began about 7:30 a.m., when Santa Ana firefighters unlocked the courthouse doors to investigate a fire alarm that had gone off. Rivas said a man tried to sneak in behind them and was chased off by two county marshals stationed at the front desk.
After determining that the alarm was false, the firefighters left. But soon afterward, a courthouse employee reported to the marshals that lights were on in the second floor of the building's west wing, Rivas said.
Deputy Marshal Evan Scheib investigated and found the man in a stairwell between the second and third floors. The two scuffled, and Scheib was pushed against a wall, cutting his arm on a light fixture. The suspect reportedly pulled out a semiautomatic handgun, and when Scheib pulled his weapon, the man fled upstairs.
Rivas said the man yelled, "You will all die tomorrow" and some obscenities before fleeing.
About 10 county employees who had been working in the building on Civic Center Drive were evacuated, and two tactical teams and a police dog entered the courthouse's west wing, which houses municipal courtrooms, at 11:30 a.m.
By late afternoon, the officers, who were searching the building floor by floor, included two Orange County sheriff's tactical teams and parts of two Santa Ana police teams, as well as six police dogs.
A sheriff's helicopter assisted them by hovering near the building so observers could look through the windows of the upper stories. Later, a Costa Mesa police chopper equipped with a heat sensor scanned the structure.
Sunday evening more than 60 law enforcement personnel, including 30 to 35 SWAT team officers from the Santa Ana Police Department and the Sheriff's Department, were participating in the search.
Rivas said it was possible that the man escaped out a side door before the building was sealed off by police officers. He said sheriff's officials did not know how the man got inside.