Aug. 20, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Capitol Officials Conferred on Shootings but Made Different Calls

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
An armed Capitol Police officer stands guard outside the Capitol Monday after 13 people were killed in a shooting at the Navy Yard. Capitol officials responded with differing tactics.

By 10:30 a.m., Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was holding flights. President Barack Obama issued a statement at a prescheduled news conference, and the death toll continued to rise. At that point, the Police Board — consisting of Gainer, Irving, Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers and Dine, who is an ex-officio member — conducted its first conference call. Personal conversations between its members had been ongoing, Gainer said.

Both chambers were set to convene at 2 p.m., although the House was set only for a pro forma session. Gainer said the Police Board conducted two more conference calls before that, at 11:20 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Shortly before the House pro forma session, at 1:30 p.m., Irving sent an email to House staff.

“The facts available from the shootings at the Navy Yard continue to evolve,” he wrote. “Information about additional shooters is yet unclear, and not confirmed. We are evaluating available intelligence and evidence. There is no information indicating the Capitol Complex, staff, visitors or Members are at risk. The USCP has implemented substantial additional security measures. We will keep you apprised of information.”

At 2 p.m., the House convened for its brief pro forma session and adjourned within minutes. The Senate convened and, after brief remarks from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., adjourned.

By this point, shooter Aaron Alexis had been dead for almost five hours. At 2:12 p.m., about 50 minutes before Gainer sent out the order for a Senate lockdown, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said police still had “reason to believe” at least two other men seen carrying firearms could be suspects in the shooting.

But by 2:49 p.m., the office of Paul A. Quander Jr., deputy mayor of the District, tweeted that the white man being sought by authorities had been identified and was not a suspect.

Gainer told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday that he made his announcement to staff that he was ordering a lockdown shortly after 3 p.m., after numerous calls with Dine and Irving, based on the possibility of other shooters being involved in the Navy Yard incident. “I opted, based on experience, to be cautious,” he said.

“Realizing and valuing the professional opinions of others in the community and after looking at the facts as presented to us we saw no compelling reason that required a lockdown or shelter in place at that time,” said House Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms Donald Kellaher.

The Senate lockdown was partially lifted at 4:18 p.m., allowing staff to exit the buildings, but no one other than staff was allowed to enter Senate facilities until Tuesday morning.

Gainer said the length of the lockdown was unknown at the time it was initiated.

“I indicated it would be in effect until I had more information; I lifted it when more complete information became available and the situation at the scene was calming,” he said.

Leaders on the House Administration Committee gave positive assessments of the choices made on Tuesday, with Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., saying officials’ “close coordination made it possible for them to enhance security throughout the complex.” The Senate Rules and Administration Committee did not respond to requests for comment. Dine declined to speak about the timeline or the lockdown.

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