New questions are being raised about security measures around the United States Congress after a car assault at a security checkpoint killed a Capitol policeman, injured another and ended with the driver of the car shot dead.
On Friday, minutes after 1:00 p.m. local time (5:00 p.m. GMT), a man drove a car into a main driveway in Capitol Square, hitting two police officers before crashing into a barricade. The man got out of his car brandishing a knife and pounced on officers before being shot, police officials said.
Constable William “Billy” Evans succumbed to his injuries, according to Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman. The second officer remained hospitalized.
“We are devastated to share the sad news that one of our officers involved in this afternoon’s incident has passed away,” Capitol Police said in a statement. Evans, a Capitol Police officer since 2003, died in a hospital from his injuries.
Most of the 535 members of Congress were on vacation when the attack took place. National Guard soldiers and police with riot shields responded to the incident which resulted in a two-hour lockdown for thousands of Congressional staff working at the Capitol complex.
“I personally believe that the Capitol Police need reinforcements right away and that we should do everything in our power to add the personnel they need,” Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi said in an interview with the media. MSNBC.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that there would be “a swift and full investigation into this heinous attack” and praised the “heroism” of the police.
Sensitivities are high following the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill by a crowd of supporters of former President Donald Trump. Protesters seeking to disrupt Congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s election in 2020 passed police checkpoints and stormed the Capitol building.
Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died and a female protester was shot and killed by a police officer. Three other protesters died of health incidents during the riot and two Capitol Hill police officers committed suicide afterwards.
Congress called on the National Guard to defend the Capitol Park and erected a non-scalable fence topped with barbed wire around the building which is normally open to the public and visited by thousands of tourists.
The authorities had started removing the fence in recent days, congressional leaders have sought to restore a sense of normalcy to congress. Just two weeks ago, public traffic was re-authorized on Constitution Avenue, the street where Friday’s attack took place.
“As to the perimeter fence and other issues … we’re going to have to look at it more deliberately and make sure we can prevent incidents like these,” said Krishnamoorthi, Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee. .
A task force report released on March 8 concluded that the United States Capitol Police were ill-prepared for the January 6 attack, while recommend drastic security upgrades and the creation of a rapid reaction force in the US capital.
Recently, Republicans had urged Democrats who control key decision-making positions in Congress to reopen the Capitol complex to the public.
“Without credible security threats, we can no longer justify keeping this institution closed to the American people whose public funds not only fund Congress, but as citizens also deserve access to their legislative chamber,” said March 26. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
On March 26, President Pelosi appointed Major General William Walker as the House’s new Sergeant-at-Arms, a key administrative post for security on Capitol Hill.
Pittman in earlier testimony before a Congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack apologized for the “failures” of the Capitol Police. A former House sergeant-at-arms and former Capitol police chief have given conflicting accounts of the preparations they made before January 6.
While the January 6 mob attack was unprecedented, several deadly incidents like Friday’s attack in the past have resulted in adjustments in police postures.
In 2013, a black woman was shot dead by law enforcement on Capitol Hill after a high-speed car chase from the White House where she crashed into a secret service barricade.
Police increased their numbers at Capitol Security checkpoints in 1998 after two officers were shot and killed inside the Capitol building by an armed assailant.
Security procedures and vehicle checkpoints were significantly tightened at federal buildings in Washington, DC, following the al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.