Following the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), the top official in charge of House security is urging Members and staff to be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity to local law enforcement and the Capitol Police.
“I strongly urge Members and staff to be continuously aware of their surroundings and to immediately report circumstances that appear suspicious,” House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood wrote in an e-mail to Members and staff. “If you are scheduled to be in a public forum (town hall meetings, rallies, etc.), and feel uncertain about your safety, immediately contact the U.S. Capitol Police Threat Assessment Section or the Sergeant at Arms.”
The section monitors threats and unlawful activity directed toward Members of Congress.
Livingood added that it is important for each district office to establish communication with local law enforcement, who can provide added security if necessary.
Livingood’s e-mail comes about eight hours after Giffords was shot in the head at a Safeway in Tucson, Ariz.
The Capitol Police department said earlier in the day that the suspect in the Arizona Democrat’s shooting is in custody and also urged Members and staff to be cautious.
The Capitol Police department said the suspect in the shooting of Giffords (D-Ariz.) is in custody but has urged Members and staff to be cautious.
“The United States Capitol Police has communicated with House Members of Congress advising them to take reasonable and prudent precautions regarding their personal safety and security,” Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said in a statement. “We are currently working with Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.”
She added that the police remain at a “high level of readiness, consistent with our operating conditions on U.S. Capitol Grounds, and we continue to maintain a robust presence.”
There was no noticeable increase in police presence at the Capitol grounds Saturday afternoon.
A Democratic chief of staff slammed the department, noting that it took them more than two hours to alert lawmakers. According to an e-mail obtained by Roll Call, the notification was sent out to House staff at 3:16 p.m.
“That is incredibly scary. We have Members all across the country doing events right now,” the chief of staff said. “The response by the Capitol Police is inept.”
The aide noted that Capital Police routinely sends out timely notices about threats in and around the Capitol. “We get announcements about suspicious packages within 15 seconds,” the aide said.
At 4:26 p.m., an alert was sent to all Senate staff informing them, “There is no indication at this time that this event is part of a larger threat against the Congressional membership or has a nexus to terrorism but the investigation is ongoing.”
“The Senate Sergeant at Arms Office is actively involved in monitoring this event, assessing any additional or expanded threats and working with the U.S. Capitol Police,” the alert read. “As more information is confirmed it will be provided. In the interim, if Members are in a public forum or scheduled to be in a public forum and feel uncertain about their safety, they should contact the U.S. Capitol Police immediately.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.