One police officer and suspect dead following US Capitol vehicle attack

Man shot by police after ramming a barricade and lunging at them with a knife

Law enforcement investigate the scene after a vehicle charged a barricade at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on Friday. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Law enforcement investigate the scene after a vehicle charged a barricade at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on Friday. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

 

A motorist rammed a vehicle into US Capitol police on Friday and brandished a knife, killing one officer and injuring another and forcing the Capitol complex to go into lockdown in an attack that police said did not immediately appear to be terrorism-related.

Police responded by firing on the suspect, who died.

Yogananda Pittman, acting chief of the United States Capitol Police, told a news conference that the suspect drove into the officers then hit a barricade and got out of the car, lunging at them with a knife in his hand.

One officer was killed and the other was injured, she said.

The officer that was killed has been named as William Evans, who had been on the force for 18 years, Ms Pittman said in a statement.

“It does not appear to be terrorism-related but obviously we’ll continue to investigate,” said Robert Contee, acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington.

Police and fire officials stand near a car that rammed into a barrier on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP
Police and fire officials stand near a car that rammed into a barrier on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

Police said the suspect was unknown to them, they had yet to determine what had motivated him, and they did not identify him.

“Clearly this was someone who was actively trying to just get at whoever or whatever – we just don’t know right now, so we have a responsibility to investigate that to get to the bottom of this. Whether the attack was at law enforcement, or whoever, we have a responsibility to get to the bottom of it and we’ll do that,” Mr Contee said.

Dozens of police cars, marked and unmarked, raced toward the iconic domed white building, in an unwelcome reminder of January 6th, when thousands of supporters of then-president Donald Trump overran the complex.

US spy agencies warned in mid-March of an ongoing threat that racially motivated violent extremists, such as white supremacists, will carry out mass-casualty attacks on civilians while militia groups target police and government personnel and buildings.

Roads leading to the complex were blocked by police cars or officers and people inside the Capitol were told to stay away for much of the afternoon before police announced that the lockdown had been lifted.

Members of Congress were not in Washington on Friday, with both the Senate and House of Representatives in recess for the Easter holiday.

Dozens of National Guard troops, who have been stationed at the Capitol since the January attack, quickly deployed. Heavily armed and in riot gear, they jogged in columns to stand in rows at the scene and around the complex.

Security argument

Authorities have begun only in the past couple of weeks to remove the outer ring of high, razor-wire-topped fencing erected around the sprawling Capitol complex after the January 6th rampage. Many of the thousands of National Guard troops posted at the building in January had also been sent home.

Lawmakers have been arguing about how much security should remain on Capitol Hill, which is a popular park for city residents as well as the seat of government. Members of Congress from both political parties have introduced legislation to make it illegal to erect permanent fencing around the building.

The January 6th assault took place while the House of Representatives and Senate, with the Senate presided over by then-vice president Mike Pence, was certifying Democratic president Joe Biden’s November election victory over the Republican Trump.

At the time Mr Trump’s supporters shouted slogans including “Stop the Steal” and “Hang Mike Pence” as they attacked the Capitol and said they hoped to stop the election certification.

Mr Biden took office on January 20th.

“This has been an extremely difficult time for US Capitol Police after the events of January 6th and now the events that have occurred here today. So I ask that you keep our US Capitol Police family in your thoughts and prayers,” Ms Pittman said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered flags at the Capitol to be lowered to half staff in honour of the slain officer.

Mr Biden also was out of the city, although the White House said he was aware of the incident. He arrived at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland early on Friday afternoon. – Reuters