Updated 6:37 p.m. | Capitol Police arrested a 25-year-old intern Monday who carried an unloaded handgun into the Longworth House Office Building. Joshua Wheeler, of Atchison, Kan., entered the New Jersey Avenue and C Street entrance of the building around 9 a.m. He submitted to an "administrative search" required for entry, according to department spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider. Officers discovered an unloaded Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun and arrested Wheeler.
According to a person who was behind Wheeler in line, he stood "off to the side, digging through his bag" before joining the screening line. The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Wheeler quickly grabbed his bag from the belt of the X-ray machine and walked to the elevator, before being stopped by the officer monitoring the entrance to the building. Wheeler appeared to cooperate with the officer, the eyewitness said.
The witness also said only one officer was at the post when Wheeler went through screening. The other officer had left his post to help open a door, creating nearly "the best possible time" for Wheeler to slip in the door with the handgun in his bag, according to the eye witness.
Wheeler was charged with carrying a pistol without license and for an unregistered firearm, violations of D.C. law. He will be arraigned Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court, according to pretrial services.
Wheeler has been working on the Hill as an intern in the office of Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., since May 18, said spokesman Thomas Brandt.
The office placed him on temporary leave as soon as it learned about the gun incident, which Brandt attributed to "poor judgment." Brandt said it appears to be an "accident" and said the office is fully cooperating with Capitol Police.
Brandt did not know if Wheeler has a weapons permit in Kansas. The state does not make public its list of registered gun owners.
In two high-profile incidents one week last July, Capitol Police stopped two men from bringing 9mm handguns into the Cannon House Office Building. Both ended with plea deals. Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine praised both officers for detecting the weapon and making the arrest in an email sent to the department Monday.
"These events today serve as a reminder to maintain our focus while we continue to perform our law enforcement and security mission at the highest levels on a daily basis," Dine said in the message shared with CQ Roll Call. "I want to commend the two House Division officers for their diligence in conducting security screening — this type of diligence is critical and essential. Both House Division officers maintained their posted assignments as they continued to engage in a multitude of police duties as part of their routine responsibilities."
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