WASHINGTON (AP) — Police shot a man on Monday after he pulled a weapon at a U.S. Capitol checkpoint as spring tourists thronged Washington, authorities said. The suspect was previously known to police.
The suspect in Monday’s incident was taken to a local hospital, and a female bystander also sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
The U.S. Capitol was on lockdown for about an hour and the White House also was briefly locked down. As the capital teemed with spring tourists in town to view the cherry blossoms, staff members and visitors to the Capitol were rushed into offices and told to shelter in place.
“We do believe this is an act of a single person who has frequented the Capitol grounds before and there is no reason to believe that this is anything more than a criminal act,” Capitol Chief of Police Matthew R. Verderosa told reporters. He said it was unclear how many officers fired their guns. Initial reports had said an officer was injured but that proved wrong.
Verderosa said that the suspect’s vehicle and been found on Capitol grounds and was being seized. He declined to officially identify the suspect.
The event unfolded with Congress on recess and lawmakers back in their districts. 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.
The sprawling Capitol Visitors Center where the shooting occurred remained closed into the evening as the incident was being investigated, while the Capitol itself and nearby office buildings reopened.
Visitors were turned away from the Capitol in the immediate aftermath of the shooting 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.
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.”
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.
Earlier in the day, officials conducted an unrelated shelter-in-place drill at the Capitol.