Squatter Sets Up in Hill Office

Posted November 3, 2003 at 6:48pm

Security questions shifted on Sunday afternoon to the Longworth House Office Building, where the Capitol Police arrested a woman after she had apparently spent the weekend in one Member’s office suite.

Suzanne Michele Jensen will be charged with unlawful entry, a misdemeanor, for allegedly spending a portion of the weekend squatting in an office annex used by Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-Calif.) staff.

“Apparently the door to the Member’s office was left open,” said Capitol Police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel. “It is believed that [Jensen] entered into the office and then locked the door behind her where she was found by a staff member on Sunday afternoon.”

Nunes spokesman Justin Stoner said a female aide who works in the annex, Room 1020, discovered Jensen when she attempted to enter the office Sunday afternoon only to find an interior deadbolt had been locked.

The aide contacted the building superintendent to gain access to an adjacent office, from which she stepped onto a terrace and entered her office through a window.

“[Jensen] was eating out of our refrigerator,” Stoner said. “When she was discovered she was sitting on our conference table … looking over some books.”

According to the Capitol Police, the Nunes aide spoke briefly with the woman, who could not produce identification, before pulling a duress alarm in the office.

“She wasn’t here to harm anyone. It just appeared like she needed someplace to stay,” Nunes said.

The woman did not say specifically why she was in the office, Nunes said, but added that Jensen told the staffer “not to be alarmed,” explaining that “she was there as security.”

It is possible Jensen, a Virginia resident who is approximately 41 years old, has a mental disorder, according to Capitol Police reports.

“She was dressed very neatly, which led the staffer to believe she was another staffer,” noted Gissubel.

Jensen, who may have been in the office as early as Friday, could have come through a public entrance and searched for an open office.

Stoner said the office annex is locked on weekends and occasionally during the day if it is vacant. “We don’t know how she got in. We lock the doors as we leave,” he said.

Although Capitol Police officers routinely check offices after business hours, they do not enter locked rooms unless there is a specific safety-related reason, such as a possible fire or reports of smoke. Even during such events, officers must contact the building superintendent to access a locked office.

Officers are also required to search and then lock any office not secured.

It did not appear that any items, other than the food from the refrigerator, were missing from the office, Stoner said.

“We’ve been in there and looked over things, the Capitol Police fingerprinted it, and they had dogs sniff around,” Stoner said. “There was nothing missing that we could determine, nothing damaged.” A computer in the room had also not been accessed, he said.

Staffers in the office were not alarmed by the incident, Stoner said, although it did raise some questions about security.

“It’s a good reminder for my office and for other offices, that you can never be too careful,” Nunes said.