Shimkus Shields Aides Who Caused Lockdown

Posted October 31, 2003 at 5:37pm

After two of Rep. John Shimkus’ staffers unknowingly caused the Cannon House Office Building to go into lockdown Thursday by putting a toy gun through an X-ray machine, the Illinois Republican gave them the day off Friday and continued to protect their identities.

Shimkus issued a statement Thursday evening apologizing for his staffers’ involvement in the incident, which set off a hunt for an individual, initially believed to be a man, who had brought a weapon into the building.

According to spokesman Steven Tomaszewski, Shimkus has not done any interviews and the office does not plan to confirm the two female staffers’ names, if asked.

“Down the road I am sure he will” be approached about this, Tomaszewski said of the Congressman, but for now the office plans to maintain a low profile.

“My line has been consistent that we’re not releasing any information about the staff. It’s an office decision at this point. The individuals involved are not central to the incident. We acknowledged that it was our office and the Congressman has apologized because it caused a disturbance,” Tomaszewski said. “The staff is painfully aware of what happened. They are not in the office today.

“I am sure somebody at some point is going to keep popping in and catch somebody off guard. Hopefully that doesn’t happen. Maybe sometime down the road would be an appropriate time, but at this point it is not appropriate for them to comment either,” he added.

Tomaszewski said the two women left the security screening area with no indication that anything was wrong, and returned to Shimkus’ fifth-floor office. It was only when the Capitol Police indicated to reporters in front of TV cameras that they were looking for a female matching one of their descriptions did the staffers realize they had caused the scare, he said.

Shimkus was in his office at the time, and “as soon as they became aware of that they informed the Congressman and called the Capitol Police. He was there when the police came up to interview the staff,” Tomaszewski said.