A motorist has rammed a vehicle into US Capitol police and brandished a knife, killing one officer and injuring another, and forcing the Capitol complex to lockdown.
Police said the attack on Friday did not immediately appear to be terrorism-related. They responded by firing on the suspect, who died.
Yogananda Pittman, acting chief of the US Capitol Police, told a news conference 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.
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“It is with a very, very heavy heart that I announce one of our officers has succumbed to his injuries,” she said, her voice choked with emotion.
The other officer was injured, she said.
The Capitol Police later identified the slain officer as William “Billy” Evans, an 18-year veteran of the force.
“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 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,” Contee said.
Dozens of police cars, marked and unmarked, raced toward the iconic domed white building, in an unwelcome reminder of January 6, when thousands of supporters of then-President Donald Trump overran the complex.
It was the worst security threat at the Capitol since then.
Roads leading to the complex were blocked by police cars or officers and people inside the Capitol were told to stay away from windows for much of the afternoon before police announced that the lockdown had been lifted.
Videos and photographs from the scene showed a blue car rammed into a security barricade, a front door open.
There were few people at the Capitol. 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.
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 Jan. 6 rampage. Many of the thousands of National Guard troops posted at the building in January had also been sent home.
“This has been an extremely difficult time for US Capitol Police after the events of January 6 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,” Pittman said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered flags at the Capitol to be lowered to half staff in honour of the slain officer.
President Joe 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.
© AP 2021