U.S. Capitol Police shot a man Monday after he pulled out what appeared to be a weapon during security screening and pointed it at an officer, Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa said.
The suspect, identified as 66-year-old Larry R. Dawson of Tennessee, was listed in stable but critical condition on Monday evening. He is facing charges of assault with a deadly weapon and assault on a police officer while armed, according to Capitol Police. Monday's incident marks the second time in five months that Dawson has tangled with Capitol Police. He was arrested in October after an outburst at the House chambers, in which he shouted that he was a "prophet of God." At the time, he was charged with unlawful conduct and assaulting a police officer.
Capitol Screening Worked as Designed "We believe this is an act of a single person who has frequented the Capitol grounds before, and we have no reason to believe this is anything other than a criminal act," Chief Verderosa said at an afternoon news conference,
He was quick to dismiss any connection to terrorism and said the suspect was known to authorities. The Capitol tightened security measures after last week's terror attack in Brussels.
Both the Capitol and the White House were temporarily locked down. Congress is in recess.
A female bystander also suffered minor injuries and was transported to the hospital, he said.
D.C. Police characterized the incident at the sprawling visitor's center underneath the east side of the Capitol as isolated with no threat to the general public.
Officers discovered the suspect's car near the Capitol grounds and sought a search warrant, he said.
The incident began at about 2:40 p.m., when the suspect arrived at the screening areas of the visitor's center, a facility that handles 2 million visitors annually and constructed in part to buffer the Capitol from outside threats.
Police say he drew out a weapon and pointed it at a police officer, prompting the officer to fire at him. Verderosa said he did not know how many officers fired. He said a gun was recovered at the scene.
Initial reports indicated that a police officer had been shot, but the Sergeant at Arms said that was wrong.
After the shooting, officers swarmed through the Capitol and shut down nearby roads.
The Capitol was placed on lock down for about an hour, and staff members were advised to shelter in place.
The visitor's center was shut down for the remainder of the day but was expected to reopen on Tuesday, Verderosa said.
Despite what they believe to be the isolated nature of the incident, Capitol Police will enhance security measures, including an increased presence of K9 teams and tactical units around the campus, according to a message sent to staff members by the United States Capitol Police Board.
Diane Bilo from Cincinnati stood outside the visitor's center with one of her children, awaiting word on her husband and the other two children who were inside.
She said she received texts from her husband, who described hearing multiple gun shots and seeing police officers running down the hallway shouting "cover in place."
Tim Criddle and his family were in the visitor's center movie theater when they heard shouting, and didn't know whether it was part of the movie or real life. They did not hear gunshots.
"The reaction response was extremely well organized. Obviously it's a well drilled set of guys," said Criddle, who is from Cambridge, England. "The whole family never felt unsafe."
His family and about 100 other people sheltered in place in the theater for 30 minutes before they were escorted out. "It was a wonderful evacuation tour, saw some things we never would have seen," said Laurie Goodell from Laurel, Md.
Carol Archambeault of Burbank, Calif., said he was one of about 100 persons in or near the Exhibition Hall, who were funneled by Capitol Police into a long hallway on the third underground level of of the visitors center.
"Everyone was just running. We took off running," he recalled. "And then we saw as we were coming down the stairs... a bunch of police were coming up with guns, and they were shoving us to one side so they could run up. They took us to what seemed like a very long hall three levels below in the basement. They had us stand there for about 45 minutes."
As the incident unfolded, police found a propane tank near the Capitol on 2nd Street, Northeast and investigated further. Officers did not know whether the tank had anything to do with the shooting.
The shooting reverberated beyond Washington.
While entering a town hall meeting in Ocheyden, Iowa, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley was asked by a reporter if the shooting raises concerns about safety at the Capitol.
"No," Grassley said. "I think you have to think that the police are going to do everything they can to keep people safe. But no one can guarantee a risk-free society."
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., praised the "courage and daily sacrifice" of the Capitol Police.
"These officers serve to protect not just those who work there but also the millions of visitors from all around the world who travel each year to see it," he said in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also praised their "quick and courageous actions."
A Capitol Police source said they conducted an active shooter exercise this morning across the campus where they send messages to people saying it’s an exercise and to stay in shelter. Police then go around and check to see that everyone is following protocol. The exercise is in conjunction with the USCP and emergency management division.
The real thing seemed to have come in the afternoon.
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