Friday Apr 02, 2021
WASHINGTON: At least two officers have been injured near the US Capitol, police confirmed late Friday, as a vehicle rammed into the legislative building less than three months after the Congress came under attack from an extreme-right mob.
Authorities said the US Capitol has been put on lockdown amid reports of shots having been fired in the "critical incident". The National Guard troops were also mobilised.
The suspect — who was in custody after being shot trying to leave the car with a knife in hand — died shortly afterwards, NBC and ABC News reported.
The US Capitol Police notified on Twitter about some road closures "due to the external security threat" and said the two wounded officers were "transported to the hospital".
Streets surrounding the US Capitol and congressional office buildings were locked down, with dozens of police cars — marked and unmarked — raced toward America's legislative seat.
All roads leading to the complex were blocked by police or police officers.
Television footage showed a blue sedan that had crashed into a security barrier on one of the streets leading to Congress, as what appeared to be the injured officers were loaded onto gurneys and into ambulances.
According to Reuters, a helicopter was seen hovering overhead and observers were ordered to leave the area. No information was immediately available on the identity or condition of the driver.
Authorities have begun only in the past couple of weeks to remove the outer ring of high, razor-wire-topped fencing erected around the Capitol complex after the January 6 insurrection by thousands of supporters of then-president Donald Trump.
Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the assault inspired by Trump's groundless claims that he had lost the November presidential election due to massive fraud. Since then security officials have said there is an ongoing threat from extreme right groups and Trump supporters.
More than 300 people have been charged in the January attack — including members of armed extremists groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers — and 100 more are expected to be charged, according to Justice Department court filings.
In recent weeks, some security has been loosened, with the number of armed National Guard troops at the Capitol reduced and a security fence that created a broad perimeter around the US Capitol complex removed.
But CBS News reported that security officials had already warned congressional staffers of a threat before the car ramming, with text messages sent to them telling them to avoid windows and saying no one could enter or leave the building.
"If you are outside, seek cover," the messages said.
But the danger on Friday was limited as Congress was in recess for the Easter holiday and relatively few people were in the building.
—Additional input from Reuters and AFP