An armed man was shot at and arrested at the entrance of the US Capitol visitor centre after he pointed a weapon at the officers. The incident triggered panic and forced a brief lockdown at the Capitol. The White House too was locked down briefly.
A woman bystander suffered an injury in the shooting incident and was rushed to a nearby hospital and is not said to be critical.
The shooter was identified as a 66-year-old Larry Russel Dawson.
The shooting happened at a time when the Congress is in recess this week for the Easter holiday, but it is a busy week for tourists in Washington.
The incident created panic as the tourists in the visitors centre were asked to leave immediately and those elsewhere were ordered to “shelter in place.”
After the incident, visitors were being turned away from the Capitol as emergency vehicles flooded the street and the plaza on the building’s eastern side.
“We believe that this is the act of a single person that has frequented the Capitol grounds before. There is no reason to believe this is anything more than a criminal act,” US Capitol Police chief Matthew Verderosa told reporters while ruling out any terror angle to the shooting.
Vederosa added that the incident occurred around 2:39 PM when Dawson entered the screening checkpoint with a gun at the Capitol Visitor Centre.
“Shots were fired and within minutes the individual was apprehended. The individual was then taken to a local hospital. This resulted in the Capitol Complex being locked down, and staff and visitors ordered to shelter in place. A bystander received non-life threatening injuries in the incident and is also being treated at hospital,” the US Capitol Police Board said in a statement to Congressional community.
Security in and around the US Capitol has been increased after the incident.
“The men and women of the US Capitol Police do an extraordinary job protecting our nation’s lawmakers, Congressional staff and all those coming to visit their Representatives. Because of their skill and professionalism, the seat of our democracy can remain safely open and accessible to those it serves,” Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said.
(With inputs from agencies)