Gunman Kills Two, Capitol Mourns Loss
One day stood out among all others in 1998 — July 24, a day in which Congress was filled with anger, fear and pain after a man charged into the Capitol and shot and killed two police officers.
“Russell Weston forced his way into the Capitol at 3:40 p.m. and fired at least 20 shots. … [He] had previously made threats against President Clinton and was reportedly well-known to the Secret Service,” Roll Call reported.
The incident left the Capitol closed for hours, and it was the first shooting in the building since 1954, when four Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire from the House visitors’ galley and injured five Members.
Weston killed Detective John Gibson and Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut, and he shot a female tourist, leaving her seriously injured. When he entered the Capitol, Weston set off the magnetometer and first encountered Chestnut, an 18-year veteran officer. Weston shot Chestnut dead and then proceeded through the first floor toward the office of then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas). Weston attempted to enter DeLay’s office but was stopped by Gibson; the officer went down protecting DeLay’s staff.
“Gibson, who withstood at least two gun wounds, managed to shoot and down the gunman. … Gibson’s last bullet dropped the gunman in a pool of blood,” Roll Call reported.
While Members, tourists, staffers and Capitol employees either hid from the gunman or ran out of the building, some lawmakers, including Reps. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), Charles Taylor (R-N.C.), Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) and Nick Lampson (D-Texas), remained engaged in their everyday business. Serrano was delivering a speech on the U.S. relationship with Puerto Rico when a staffer locked the men inside the House chamber to protect them from the chaos erupting elsewhere in the Capitol.
In the week following the tragic events, the Capitol mourned the officers’ deaths.
“In a matter of five days, Congress went from horror to healing. … The recovery began quickly, as the Capitol Hill community put aside party differences and confronted violence with a show of community that culminated in a solemn ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.”
Today, Weston, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, is not competent to stand trial despite nearly three years of court-ordered medication. He is currently being held in the Federal Correction Institute in Butner, N.C.