Former employee in custody after lockdown, search at KC underground cave complex

A man who was terminated from his job was taken into custody Tuesday after allegedly threatening to shoot up his former workplace and setting off a massive search at an underground cave complex where hundreds of people work.

Police said at 11:38 a.m. Tuesday that the man had been taken into custody at another location.

Earlier the man was seen entering Hunt Midwest SubTropolis, 8600 NE Underground, a sprawling commercial complex located in a system of caves beneath the Northland, east of the community of Randolph.

A former employee who was terminated said he was going to “shoot the place up,” said Capt. Tim Hernandez, a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department.

Employees inside the complex were asked to remain in their office or business and lock the doors.

“There haven’t been any shots fired,” Hernandez said while the search was still going on. “Our concern is that we know the subject is on the property and we know that he has made credible threats that he’s going to shoot the place up.”

When the former employee was terminated he threatened to come back, Hernandez said, and was told he was not allowed on the property.

Tuesday morning the man returned, drove past security and entered the caves, police said. Because of his previous threats, police responded with tactical teams and were going office by office searching for him.

The man, who may have been armed with a handgun, was described as a white male in his 40s.

Numerous local, state and federal agencies were involved in the search.

“With the size of the structure being so large, we requested the assistance of numerous other agencies,” Hernandez said. “We have federal, state and local law enforcement and their tactical response teams to help us clear it.”

According to Hunt Midwest’s website, the six million square foot underground property houses industrial space for a variety of businesses.

It’s not known how many people were in the caves Tuesday morning, but hundreds of people work in the businesses there, Hernandez said. The complex has 8.2 miles of road inside and is home to more than 55 companies, police said.

Police said the man was taken into custody at 95th and Mission in Kansas, correcting an earlier statement that said he was located in Kansas City, Kansas.

In an email later Tuesday, Hernandez said detectives were still conducting their investigation and charges were pending.

Reporter Kaitlyn Schwers contributed to this report.

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Robert A. Cronkleton gets up very early in the morning to bring readers breaking news about crime, transportation and weather at the crack of dawn. He’s been at The Star since 1987 and now contributes data reporting and video editing.
Katie Moore covers crime and justice issues for The Star. She is a University of Kansas graduate and was previously a reporter in her hometown of Topeka, Kansas.