WASHINGTON – The U.S. Capitol was locked down briefly on Thursday after gunshots were fired outside the building following a car chase across central Washington and a number of people including a law enforcement officer were hurt, officials said.
A female suspect was killed by police at the scene, a U.S. official said.
The shooting rattled the U.S. capital three weeks after 12 people were killed and three injured in a shooting spree by a government technology contractor at the U.S. Navy Yard, about 1.5 miles from the Capitol.
The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate were in session when the gunshots were heard. The U.S. government was partially shut down this week when lawmakers failed to agree on a budget.
A source familiar with the situation said the incident started when a vehicle struck a security barrier at 15th and Pennsylvania avenue, near the White House. Police chased the vehicle for about 1 1/2 miles to 2nd Street and Constitution Avenue, near the Capitol, where the shots were fired.
“I was just eating a hot dog over here and I heard about four or five gunshots, and then a swarm of police cars came in wailing their sirens,” said Whit Dabney, 13, who was visiting from Louisville, Kentucky, and heard the shots a couple of blocks away.
A policeman was injured in a car crash resulting from the chase and was taken from the shooting scene in a Medevac helicopter, a U.S. official and police said.
The lockdown order at the Capitol was called off and security along Independence Avenue was eased shortly before 3 p.m. (1900 GMT). Tourists were allowed back onto the Capitol grounds.
Just before Capitol Police sealed off the building, the Senate and House were in session. On the Senate floor, Senator John McCain of Arizona was urging that President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of senators launch negotiations to break the deadlock over government funding and a debt limit increase.
The House had just passed a bill to fund the National Guard and reservists who are not on active duty during the shutdown.
The Capitol police, who were deemed “essential” staff, were at work despite the shutdown but they are not being paid.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident, a White House official said, providing no further details.
In 1998, a gunman burst through a security checkpoint at the Capitol and killed two Capitol Police officers in an exchange of fire that sent tourists and other bystanders diving for cover. The suspect, Russell Eugene Weston Jr., was not charged with a crime because of apparent mental instability.