Friday 9 December 2016

Police shoot armed man at US Capitol checkpoint

Published 29/03/2016 | 06:01

Police vehicles at Capitol Hill in Washington DC after reports of gunfire at the Capitol Visitor Centre complex (AP)
Police vehicles at Capitol Hill in Washington DC after reports of gunfire at the Capitol Visitor Centre complex (AP)

Police shot a man after he pulled a weapon at a US Capitol checkpoint as spring tourists thronged Washington.

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The suspect was previously known to police, who last October arrested him for disrupting House of Representatives proceedings and yelling he was a "Prophet of God".

US Capitol Police identified the man as 66-year-old Larry Dawson of Tennessee. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and assault on a police officer while armed.

Dawson was taken to a local hospital, where police said he was in stable but critical condition. A female bystander also suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Initial reports had said a police officer was injured but that proved wrong.

After his arrest last year, Dawson was issued a "stay away order" by DC Superior Court in October, telling him to keep away from the Capitol grounds.

The US Capitol was on lockdown for about an hour on Monday and the White House also was briefly locked down.

As the capital teemed with spring tourists in town to view the cherry blossoms, staff members and visitors to the Capitol were rushed into offices and told to shelter in place.

"We do believe this is an act of a single person who has frequented the Capitol grounds before and there is no reason to believe that this is anything more than a criminal act," said Capitol Chief of Police Matthew Verderosa.

He said it was unclear how many officers fired their guns.

Mr Verderosa said the suspect's vehicle had been found on Capitol grounds and was seized.

The incident unfolded with Congress on recess. House Speaker Paul Ryan thanked Capitol Police, saying: "This evening our thoughts and prayers are with all those who faced danger today."

According to court documents, Dawson was arrested at the US Capitol in October after he stood up and shouted Bible verses in the gallery of the House chamber.

He was charged with disorderly and disruptive conduct on the grounds of the Capitol and assaulting, resisting or interfering with a police officer. He was also ordered to stay away from the building and grounds.

Dawson did not return for a scheduled hearing in November. In a letter filed with his case, he said he will "not comply with the court order, nor will I surrender myself unto your office".

Visitors were turned away from the Capitol in the immediate aftermath of the shooting as emergency vehicles flooded the street and the plaza on the building's eastern side. Police cordoned off the streets immediately around the building.

Cathryn Leff of Temecula, California, in town to lobby with the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, said she was going through security at the main entrance to the Capitol Visitors Centre when police told people to leave immediately.

Outside, on the plaza just to the east of the Capitol, other officers told those there to "get down behind this wall," she said.

"I heard what sounded like two shots off to my left ... I felt like I was in a movie. It didn't feel real at all."

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