The discovery of a loaded shotgun hidden in the downtown offices of the Grand Forks Herald rattled the newspaper's staff Monday, leaving them and investigators wondering who stashed the gun there and why.
Employees cleaning a break room with kitchen facilities found the gun in a cabinet shortly before 10 a.m., Lt. Grant Schiller said.
"No notes, no threats, no nothing -- just a loaded shotgun in a case in a closet in a common area, five rounds in it," Schiller said.
The gun was described as a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun with a pistol grip -- a weapon not typically used for hunting, but more commonly for self-defense or law enforcement.
"It just shocks the conscience a little bit as to why that would be there," Schiller said. "Who brings a loaded shotgun to a place of work? I mean, who does that?"
He said the five rounds in the gun, none of which were in the chamber, were slugs, or large solid bullets, as opposed to buckshot.
Schiller said police don't know when the gun was placed there but that employees had gone through the cabinet no more than six months ago.
The Herald's publisher and editor, Mike Jacobs, reported the discovery to police, and officers responded, seizing the gun as evidence and searching all the building's common areas. No other suspicious weapons or items were found, Jacobs said.
Jacobs held an all-staff meeting Monday afternoon in the Herald's Community Room, telling employees to be on the lookout for anything unusual.
"It's hard to imagine that it's entirely innocent," Jacobs said of the gun and its placement, but added that it's not clear any harm toward the Herald was intended. "We don't have any cause for panic, but obviously, we're taking it very, very seriously."
By Monday evening, an armed security guard was posted at the front door of the Herald's building at 375 Second Ave. N. It is one of several new measures the Herald is taking as it reviews its security, Jacobs said.
The Herald's parent company, Forum Communications Co., "prohibits anyone from possessing or carrying weapons of any kind in the workplace," an employee handbook states.
"Carrying a loaded gun into the building is a dismissible offense," Jacobs told employees.
Because the building was previously accessible in some ways to the public, investigators may not be able to limit their inquiry to Herald employees. Public access to the building will now be restricted to the front lobby until further notice, Jacobs said.
As a precaution, police notified Central High School, across the street from the Herald, that the gun was found. The case has been assigned to the detective bureau.