Police Apprehend Pair Entering Capitol With Suspicious Packages Taped to Their Bodies

Posted March 6, 2003 at 1:59pm

The Capitol Police apprehended a man and woman who entered the Capitol at 1 p.m. Thursday with glass jars and other unidentifiable objects duct-taped to their bodies.

Entrances to the Capitol through tunnels from the Senate office buildings were closed and people inside were routed around the Crypt, where the two had been stopped. But all entrances and areas in the Capitol were reopened later in the afternoon.

Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said officers initially believed the items worn by the two individuals under heavy clothing could be weapons of mass destruction. After discussing the matter and viewing the items confiscated from the man and woman, Gainer told reporters he believed the individuals were not trying to inflict harm on themselves or others.

“At this point, it appears this is a hoax,” Gainer said at a press conference. “Agents of the U.S. [Capitol] Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation have viewed the items and they do not appear to be explosive devices.”

The two people were charged with interstate transport of an explosive device, according to a Capitol Police spokeswoman, who added that they could face up to 10 years in jail and a fine for the felony.

The man, identified as a 33-year-old black man with a Michigan license plate, had jars of liquid duct-taped to a strap around his shoulder, according to Gainer. The woman, described as a 23-year-old with Iowa license plates, was wearing what appeared to be a belt covered in duct tape with what Gainer described as “objects” hanging from it. The chief could not describe exactly what the objects were but said he thought they could have been the inner cardboard core of duct-tape rolls and what appeared to be objects made of clay.

Hazardous materials teams were dispatched to the scene and the liquid in the jars is being tested. Gainer said he hopes to have the results before the end of the day.

The man was wearing what appeared to be an African robe; the woman was wearing a heavy coat. They entered the Capitol through the northern Senate entrance and went through security without setting off alarms. Gainer said the two had tickets to the Senate Gallery and had been in the building for roughly 10 to 15 minutes before they were apprehended in the Crypt.

Gainer said officers stopped the individuals after viewing the duct tape and what he said they believed could have been a “weapon of mass destruction” or “devices that might be used for suicide.” The two were chanting and dancing, and a crowd of children had gathered around them and were taking pictures.

Gainer implored anyone who was in the Capitol on Thursday who might have knowledge or photos of the pair to contact the Capitol Police.

He also said that officers believed this was not the pair’s first visit to the Capitol, but they were not on any watch list.

“We don’t keep that kind of watch list,” he said.