Armed man crashed through barricade at Capitol, taken into custody

Monday, September 18th 2006, 8:43 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An armed man ran through the hallways of the U.S. Capitol after crashing his vehicle on the Capitol grounds Monday in the worst breach of security since a gunman killed two police officers eight years ago.

Police officials and congressional aides said the man was tackled outside a basement office after leading police on a chase through the building. They said he was carrying a small weapon but there were no reports of shots fired.

The incident occurred shortly after 8 a.m. EDT, and eight hours later Capitol Police were still not disclosing information. Calls to police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider were not returned, and her answering machine said it could no longer take messages.

Aides from several leadership offices said they were urging police to brief reporters on the incident.

They said the man, who was not identified, appeared to be having a seizure, possibly drug-related, and that he was transported by ambulance to a Washington hospital.

Details remained sketchy, but construction workers and police said the man, wearing a blue ballcap, drove an SUV through a barricade at a huge construction site on the east side of the Capitol, across from the Supreme Court. His vehicle also crashed into a water fountain on the plaza in the middle of the construction area.

One leadership aide said the SUV clipped a police vehicle parked outside the construction area, the site of a visitors' center slated to open next year.

The visitors' center is being built in part to provide an extra layer of security for visitors to the Capitol following the 1998 incident in which a mentally disturbed man ran through a first-floor door of the Capitol, shooting to death one police officer at the door and another inside the adjacent office of then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Security around the Capitol increased significantly after that shooting, and again after the Sept. 11 attacks.

One security officer, speaking on condition of anonymity pending an official briefing, said that after abandoning the vehicle the man ran up the east front steps into the Rotunda, then down a stairway into the basement. He was captured outside an office used for distribution of American flags that lawmakers send their constituents.

The Capitol complex was locked down for almost an hour before reopening for staff and tourists. Eric Ueland, chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, said that after the capture, police conducted a search through the Capitol to ensure there had been no other intruders.

Police cordoned off the vehicle, a light-colored SUV, which sustained a damaged front fender, and searched it.