Wednesday 22 November 2017

Armed man shot by police inside US Capitol Building

A police officer stands guard at the Capitol Building Photo: Reuters
A police officer stands guard at the Capitol Building Photo: Reuters

Richard Cowan

An armed man was shot and wounded by police after he walked into the underground US Capitol Visitor Centre yesterday and pointed a gun at officers.

Police said the man was known to police and there were no indications of a terrorist link to the incident.

The suspect and a female bystander, who also suffered wounds, were taken to hospital for treatment, according to Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa.

"Based on initial investigation, we believe this is an act of a single person who has frequented the Capitol grounds before. There is no reason to believe this is anything more than a criminal act," Verderosa said.

A US government official confirmed that no evidence had emerged of a connection to terrorism.

No police officers were injured in the incident. Chief Verderosa said it was unclear how many officers fired shots.

A weapon was recovered on the scene and the suspect's vehicle was found on Capitol grounds, he added.

On a day when the Senate and House of Representatives were not working and few lawmakers were in Washington, the Capitol building was briefly locked down before reopening for official business.

The Capitol Visitor Centre is used chiefly by tourists.

Police did not identify the suspect and said he was the only person involved.

The US Secret Service temporarily cleared tourists from an area around the White House, but activities quickly returned to normal.

A report that a person tried to gain entry to the White House was incorrect, a Secret Service spokesman said.

The District of Columbia Police Department, a separate force from the US Capitol police, called the shooting an isolated incident and said there was no threat to the public.

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." After a while, police told her and others to keep running. "I felt like I was in a movie. It didn't feel real at all."

Amanda Smith of Columbus, Ohio, said she and her family were touring the Capitol and were in the Senate visitors' gallery when she heard police officers' radios start talking about shots being fired.

"Sure, we were worried," she said. "But there were lots of kids around so we didn't make too big a deal of it."

Irish Independent

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