Throughout yesterday, at least seven hostage remained bound by hand or foot in the District Building office of D.C. City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, captives of two men armed with a shotgun, handgun and machete.
As police quietly waited on the floor below, straining to hear sounds, about 15 to 20 other people, mostly Council staff members, remained trapped in offices at the Southwest end of the District Building's fifth floor.
Alan Grip, Tucker's press aide and one of the hostages held in Tucker's office yesterday morning described the scene in a telephone call his captors allowed him to make to WTOP Radio.
As the gunmen listened, Grip said, "We're being treated very well. We've asked for cigarettes. They've gotten them. We've asked for fruit for breakfast. They've gotten it. We've asked for a newspaper. They've gotten that."
Grip continued, "They've allowed us to have our hands tied in front of us instead of in back, which is a lot more comfortable. We're allowed to stand or sit or lie down, whichever is more comfortable. We're allowed to have coffee or tea . . ."
District officials said that seven people - four men and three women - were being held in Tucker's Suite of offices in the northwest end of the top floor of the District Building at the corner of 14th and E Streets N.W. However, a source who had been in the building said there was an eighth hostage, a building guard.
City spokesmen declined throughout yesterday to identify any of those being held in the city hall since about 2:40 p.m. Wednesday.
However, the source said that in addition to Grip, the two gunmen were holding two secretaries, a receptionist, a building guard and three unidentified men who are probably not Council employees.
Throughout yesterday city officials provided little information on the situation at the besieged city hall. There reportedly has been almost no communication between police and the two gun men, other than requests for food, since the hostages were taken.
Grip's call to WTOP Radio, where he formerly worked, came at 9:30 a.m. yesterday. Grip began, "I've got a message from the two men who are holding us here, so I'm just going to repeat what they say, and then when I finish doing that, I'll ask them when if they want me to answer any of your questions."
Grip then gave this message from the two captors who have refused to give their names: "We are Hanafi Muslins to the death, and if the police have any ideas about storming this room, (they) put all of our lives in immediate danger as well as over 100 hostages at B'nai B'rith."
Police said the two gun men in the District Building are in constant contact with the Hanafi Muslims at the B'nai B'rith national headquarters via an open telephone line.
Grip continued with the gunmen's message: "They are prepared to die, because they (Black Muslims) killed our family. This is for all Islam. It is not a personal grudge. It's just that justice should be done.
After Grip described the scene in Tuckers office suite, a WTOP announcer, Steve Thompson, asked if any other messages would be allowed out. But Grip said, "No, good bye, and hung up."
Boxes of food were delivered both to the gunmen and their hostages and to the others trapped on the District Building's fifth floor.
The 15 to 20 people at the far end of the Council wing from Tucker's suite got their meals by pulling the boxes up by rope from the fourth floor, where police are. This occurred at the south end of the west wing of the building in the morning, shortly after 1 p.m., and again in late afternoon.
It wasn't clear how police delivered the food to the gunmen and their hostages. Wednesday, a bullhorn, since unused, was slid across the fifth-floor hall at the gunmen's request.
This long hall, stretching along the front of the building, is where the shooting occurred Wednesday afternoon that left one dead and three wounded. Maurice Williams, a 22-year-old reporter for Howard University's WHUR-FM radio station, was killed by the gunmen.
Council member Marion Barry, 41, was shot in the chest, but survived when the small-caliber bullet just missed his heart.
Mark Wesley Cantrell, 51, a building guard, was shot in the head.
Robert Pierce, 51, a law student working at the District Building as an intern, was also shot and critically wounded.
The two gunmen were holding both Tucker's large, personal office at the northwest corner of the District Building's fifth floor and an adjacent office for Tucker's secretaries just south of it.
Heavily armed police control the lower four floors of the building and have established a command post in Room 400 on the fourth floor, directly under the City Council chamber.
During the barrage of shooting Wednesday, glass walls were shot out of either side of double doors at the entrance to the Council's office wing, making it easier for police and the gunmen to hear each other.
It was unclear yesterday why police did not seek to take the 15 to 20 trapped people out of the building by ladder that could be extended up the south end of the building.
Police Wednesday night said the fifth-floor ledge was precarious, especially as it is well coated with pigeon droppings. However, it appeared to be more likely that they key consideration of officials directing the siege was not to do anything that might be interpreted by the gunmen as threatening. A police operation to remove people might be falsely interpreted as an assault, setting off shooting.
Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Calif.) went to the District Building Wednesday night to offer himself as a hostage in exchange for those being held there.
Dornan's offer was not accepted by police, who pointed out that at least three substitute hostages would be needed because hostages are being held in three separate locations in the city.
The California congressman later told reporters that police inside the District Building told him the male hostages were bound hand and foot and the women's feet were tied.
The scene around the District Building was a strange one for a weekday, with traffic blocked off on Pennsylvania Avenue between 13th and 15th Streets NW on 14 Street between Constitution Avenue and F Street and E Street in front of the building.
Few persons other than police entered the District Building during the day. One of these was Ben Gilbert, city planning director, who shortly after 3 p.m. went to his office on the fourth floor directly below Tucker's suite.
Gilbert later said the situation inside was eerily quiet. Gilbert said he went in to get some necessary papers, adding. "The planning process must go on."