Capitol shooting incident wreaks chaos in DC
By NBP Staff | March 28, 2016, 15:03 EDT
WASHINGTON – A shooting at the U.S. Capitol Monday afternoon left a suspect wounded and in custody, while a bystander was also injured, police said.
A notification sent to Senate offices said no further suspects appeared to be at large.
The suspect was shot by police after drawing a weapon at a Capitol checkpoint, the agency said during a late-afternoon news briefing about the incident. The man, who CNN reported is from Tennessee, wasn’t otherwise identified and was transported to a local hospital, police said.
A female bystander also sustained minor injuries, police said.
While CBS News reported two bystanders sustained minor injuries in the incident, Reuters said that couldn’t be confirmed. The news service said a government official told its reporter that the suspect walked into the underground visitor center and pulled a gun but was shot as he pointed it at a police officer in the center. It said there was no evidence of a connection to terrorism.
“We believe this is an act of a single person who has frequented the Capitol grounds before, and there is no reason to believe this is anything more than a criminal act,” U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said, according to CNN. The cable television network said law enforcement officials identified the suspect as Larry Russell Dawson, and said he underwent surgery at the hospital. CNN also said that a weapon was recovered at the crime scene.
Verderosa would not confirm that the suspect was the same man who disrupted the House of Representatives last fall by shouting, the Associated Press reported. He said it was unclear how many officers fired their guns.
The gunman set off a metal detector when he tried to enter the visitor center, then pulled a gun, CNN reported, citing sources it didn’t name. He was then shot by Capitol Police.
Dawson was arrested in October on a charge of assaulting a police officer after an outburst in the House chamber, CNN said. Court documents from that 2015 incident describe Dawson as a 66-year-old man from Tennessee. In that incident, according to the documents, Dawson “loudly stated to Congress he was a ‘prophet of God.’ ”
Verderosa described the woman’s injuries as “minor” and said she was transported to a hospital, CNN said.
The Capitol was on lockdown for about an hour after the initial incident and staffers were told to shelter in place.
The event unfolded with Congress on recess and most lawmakers back in their districts. The Capitol complex was teeming with spring tourists. The White House was briefly put on lockdown, although that was soon lifted.
In Boston, Massachusetts State Police said they had deployed additional personnel to the State House as a precaution, State House News Service reported. “At the this time we are aware of no intelligence that suggests any current or credible threat to Massachusetts or any nexus between the U.S. Capitol incident and Massachusetts,” the agency said in a statement, the News Service reported.
Capitol office buildings and the Capitol itself were re-opened for business about an hour after the initial reports of gunfire. The visitor center remained closed as the incident was being investigated.
Immediately following the incident, reports said a police officer had been shot in the visitor center of the sprawling Capitol complex. But later reports indicated that wasn’t true, AP said. Staffers, reporters and others inside the complex were told to “shelter in place” and not allowed to leave their offices.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) issued a statement thanking Capitol Police, as did other congressional leaders. “This evening our thoughts and prayers are with all those who faced danger today,” Ryan said.
“Our D.C. staff members are safe, and we are all very grateful for the Capitol Police and their heroic work to protect us today and every day,” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said on Twitter.com.
“So grateful for their brave service and all they do to keep us safe,” echoed U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Worcester) about the police who guard the Capitol complex.
Visitors were being turned away from the Capitol as emergency vehicles flooded the street and the plaza on the building’s eastern side. Police, some carrying long guns, cordoned off the streets immediately around the building, which were thick with tourists visiting for spring holidays and the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Cathryn Leff of Temecula, California, in town to lobby with the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, said she was going through security at the main entrance to the Capitol Visitors Center when police told people to leave immediately.
Outside, on the plaza just to the east of the Capitol, other officers told those there to “get down behind this wall,” she said. “I heard what sounded like two shots off to my left.” After a while, police told her and others to keep running. “I felt like I was in a movie. It didn’t feel real at all.”
Traffic was jammed in the vicinity, but despite the obvious emergency the scene was relatively calm. A work crew on the north side of the Supreme Court, across the street, was asked to stop work and move away from the building as a precaution.
From back home in their districts, many lawmakers got in touch with staff to ensure all were safe, and posted thanks on Twitter as it appeared they were.