Gunshots were fired at the Washington D.C. Capitol Visitors Center, Monday afternoon in the midst of tourists, on March 28, 2016. The shooting resulted in the swift and immediate police response that caused the White House and the Capitol building to be placed under lock-down. It was discovered that the shooter was stopped when the metal detector went off at the entrance of the Visitors Center. The gunman pulled his weapon, but he was shot instead by a Capitol police officer, who was next to him.
After the shooting incident occurred, the lockdown of the Capitol building and the White House ensued. The White House and Capitol staffers were told to shelter in place, and an email was circulated among the House offices at 1:47 p.m. ET. The notice was a warning to all House staff, that the entire Capitol Complex would be shut down due to a security threat. No one would be allowed to enter or leave the buildings due to a threat of shooting, and those outside were instructed to take cover. Police and firefighters took over the front of the Visitors Center, alerting the public of the shooting. As of 3:30 p.m. ET, it was reported that Capitol police had shot and apprehended the male suspect, which caused law enforcement to lock down the area.
No law enforcement authorities were injured during the shooting, according to CNN. A female bystander had been injured by flying debris, due to the shooting. The male suspect was sent to the hospital. It is believed the shooter was working alone. The lock-down was lifted within an hour of the initial incident, once it was established there was no further threat. Eyewitnesses spoke about the immediate response of the Capitol law enforcement, who made sure everyone was safe during the shooting and gave them constant updates of the situation during the lockdown.
CNN reported that Easter weekend and the activities taking place on the grounds contributed to the heavy crowds at the Visitors Center, which made the Capitol shooting all the more frightening. WWMT in Michigan reported that over 35 thousand people, including families with small children, were ar the Capitol for the 138th annual Easter Egg Roll on Monday. It was also noted that the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, which also contributed to drawing in crowds.
It was discovered that the White House was shut down simultaneously because someone jumped the fence, and the lockdown at the Capitol was unrelated. While the Capitol Complex remained closed after the shooting, D.C. police reported that there was no active threat to the public.
FBI Senior Analyst Tom Fuentes was interviewed by CNN and disclosed that the shooting events were not a shock to the authorities. Fuentes said that in the last 15 years, the FBI has been aware of two separate plans to launch a drone, possibly with a bomb, into the Capitol Complex. When those inside the building evacuated, there would be terrorists waiting to fire upon the fleeing public and staff. The Capitol law enforcement has prepared for a shooting or any disruption made on Capitol grounds that training contributed to how they handled the Visitor Center incident. The importance of the immediate lockdown of the Capitol Complex was made clear in the light of these concerns.
By Juanita Lewis
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