Gunman shot by police at U.S. Capitol
An armed man who was shot Monday trying to enter the U.S. Capitol building was known to Capitol Police and had previously disrupted a session of Congress, according to local and federal law enforcement officials.
Larry Dawson of Tennessee was stopped by Capitol Police after he set off a metal detector trying to enter the Capitol Visitor Center around 2:40 p.m. Eastern time, officials said. After a dispute with officers, Dawson drew a weapon and at least one officer opened fire.
He was taken to the hospital for treatment, according to Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa. A weapon was recovered at the scene, he added.
A female bystander, age 35 to 45, also suffered minor injuries in the incident.
Dawson’s motives were unclear. Verderosa did not identify Dawson by name during a press briefing outside the Capitol, but said that the suspect was known to Capitol Police.
“We believe this is an act of a single person, who has frequented the Capitol grounds before,” Verderosa said. “There is no reason to believe this is anything more than a criminal act.”
Dawson’s identity was confirmed by a federal law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak on the investigation.
In October, Dawson reportedly shouted from a House balcony that he was a “prophet of God.”
Verderosa said the building’s security precautions appeared to have prevented the suspect from entering the building.
“It appears the screening process worked the way it’s supposed to,” he said. Police also located and seized the suspect’s car, he said.
The shooting briefly shut down the Capitol as police told panicked visitors and staff to take immediate shelter and close, lock and stay away from doors.
“Due to police activity, Capitol Police have issued a shelter in place for the Capitol complex. Please stay in your designated area,” the Senate sergeant at arms said in a tweet during the shutdown.
Shortly before 4 p.m., the Capitol reopened.
Though House and Senate lawmakers are away on recess, the Capitol remains a popular draw for tourists and school groups visiting during spring at the peak of cherry blossom season.
The visitors center is a vast underground complex beneath the Capitol, where visitors line up for tours. The multi-level space includes a cafeteria, gift shops and official meeting rooms for lawmakers. Many news conferences are held there.
Those visiting the Capitol must go through metal-detector screening as they enter the visitor center, but lines often form outside the complex.
The visitor center was built in part as a response to the 1998 shooting deaths of two U.S. Capitol police officers who were killed by a man with mental problems. Previously, tourists entered at the same doors used by lawmakers and staff.
As a precaution, the Secret Service temporarily closed the north and south fence lines of the White House, a spokesman said. The White House itself was not on lockdown.
The closures were quickly lifted, and pedestrians were again free to walk along the north and south perimeters of the White House grounds.