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Police Shoot Gunman at US Capitol Complex

  • VOA News

The U.S. Capitol building is shown on lockdown following a shooting incident at the buildings Visitors Center, in Washington, March 28, 2016. (N. Ardanza/VOA)

The U.S. Capitol building is shown on lockdown following a shooting incident at the buildings Visitors Center, in Washington, March 28, 2016. (N. Ardanza/VOA)

Police at the U.S. Capitol shot a man Monday after he pulled out a gun and pointed it at officers during a routine security screening at the entrance of the site's visitor's center.

Authorities identified him as 66-year-old Larry Dawson from the state of Tennessee and said he was in critical condition after being taken to a hospital.

Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said a female bystander suffered minor injuries and that no officers were hurt.

"We do believe this is an act of a single person who has frequented the Capitol grounds before and there is not reason to believe this is anything more than a criminal act," Verderosa said.

Dawson was charged in October with unlawful conduct on Capitol grounds and assaulting a police officer after he stood up in the gallery of the House of Representatives and shouted Bible verses and proclaimed he was a "Prophet of God."

In addition to being charged, he was ordered to stay away from the area. He did not appear for a November hearing in his case.

Congress was in recess Monday for the Easter holiday, but many tourists were taking tours of the Capitol when the shooting took place. Those inside were told to shelter in place and police cordoned off access to the complex for a short time.

A lobbyist from California who was at the Capitol, Jill Epstein, told VOA she was at the Visitor Center during a break in between her meetings.

A Secret Service police officer patrols the North Lawn of the White House in Washington, March 28, 2016, after reports of an active shooter at the U.S. Capitol.

A Secret Service police officer patrols the North Lawn of the White House in Washington, March 28, 2016, after reports of an active shooter at the U.S. Capitol.

“As we were going through, just at security, at the metal detector, I was with my colleagues. One person had his wallet and his phone still on the conveyor belt, another one had her shoes off, and all of a sudden people start screaming, ‘There is an active shooter, run.’ We didn’t know whether to go in or out, and we just got out.”

She said armed police were suddenly everywhere and told her to crouch down by an outdoor wall.

Verderosa said it appears the security screening process at the Capitol worked as it was supposed to. He said his office has not determined how many police officers fired their weapons at the suspect.

During the incident, the Secret Service closed the entrances to the White House as a precautionary measure, although no incident was reported there.

It is a busy week for tourists in Washington. Many of them have come to see the world renowned cherry blossoms that are now in full bloom around the nation's capital.

In 1998, two Capitol Police officers were killed when a man opened fire inside the complex. After that episode, Congress initiated plans for a new visitor center that expanded and improved its security.

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