WASHINGTON: Police shot an armed man at an entrance of the US Capitol visitor center Monday, sparking panic during the busy spring tourist season in a city on heightened alert following terror attacks in Brussels.
The suspect, who police said was known to authorities, was hauled into custody and transported to hospital, where he underwent surgery. The incident was not believed to be terror-related.
A female bystander suffered what police said appeared to be minor injuries and was hospitalized.
The incident prompted an hour-long lockdown on Capitol Hill in the heart of Washington, where staffers and frightened visitors were ordered to shelter in place.
Congress is in recess this week for the Easter holiday, but it is a busy week for tourists in Washington, with the city’s famed flowering cherry trees in full bloom. Many school groups visit the city during the week after Easter.
“We believe that 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,” Capitol police chief Matthew Verderosa told reporters.
Verderosa said the suspect, who he did not identify, had entered a security checkpoint at the visitors center.
During a routine screening, he “drew what appeared to be a weapon and pointed it at officers. An officer fired and struck the suspect,” Verderosa said, adding that a weapon was recovered at the scene.
“The suspect is currently undergoing surgery. His condition is unknown at this time,” he told reporters.
No officers were injured in the incident and it was not yet clear how many of them had fired on the suspect, Verderosa said.
Local media identified the suspect as Larry Dawson of the southern state of Tennessee. Richard Burr, a North Carolina senator, told CNN the suspect was “mentally disturbed.” AFP