ShareThis Page
News

Police shut down House office building on Capitol Hill after reports of an intruder

| Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House of Representatives shut down Thursday following a reported security breach at a nearby congressional office building, but police later determined that a plastic revolver and Halloween costume were to blame and lawmakers went back in session.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said "two staff members bringing in Halloween costumes" were responsible. "I don't think they had any ill intent," he said, adding he expected no charges to be filed.

Start to finish, the incident lasted two hours or less -- but it triggered a massive security response in a time of terrorism worries. Police in battle gear moved into the Cannon House Office Building in pursuit of suspects.

The two female staff aides had stopped to chat with security personnel after placing a bag on a security station X-ray belt at the entrance to the office building, then went into their building, Gainer said. Moments later, security officials noticed the image of a gun on a video screen, and triggered an alarm.

The security personnel performed "well within standards" and the two staff aides were "very sorry all this happened," Gainer said.

The incident triggered memories of a lethal incident on July 24, 1998, when a man with a history of mental illness rushed into the Capitol and killed two security guards. The accused shooter, Russell E. Weston Jr., is awaiting trial.

Rep. John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican, contacted Capitol police to report that his aides were the two people for which authorities were looking. Security personnel raced to the office and learned about the costume and toy gun. Shimkus' office would not identify the two aides.

"I don't think anybody was trying to trick anybody," Gainer said. "I think it was just an unusual set of Halloween circumstances that unfolded on us."

The staff members didn't realize they were the suspects until Capitol police said they were looking for a woman, Shimkus said.

"This was an unfortunate misunderstanding, a result of my staff's efforts to put together a Halloween costume during their lunch hour," he said in a written apology.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me