By Tabitha Harris,
Domestic News Writer
Recent attacks on Capitol Hill have called into question the caliber of our nation’s security. How could a man land a helicopter on the hill virtually undetected? Although that event and a few others have caused a stir, the most recent incident was perhaps handled with the most efficiency.
In 2001, Pastor Larry Russell Dawson claimed to have been given a direct mandate from God, ordering a teenage girl to come and live with him. Bombarding her with eerie comments, Dawson said that he had noticed her weight gain, deduced she must be pregnant, and received a message from God that he was to take care of her. At the time, he was a bus driver and was consequently fired from his duties in Williamson County, Tennessee. Later in 2003, he sent stalker letters to the same girl, asserting his desire that she become his wife and bear him a child. At that point, he was arrested on charges of sexual harassment.
Things remained quiet until October of 2015, when Dawson mounted the balcony of House of Representatives and shouted, “I am a prophet!” Previously, he had stated on his church’s Facebook page that he was on a mission from God to raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. According to Dawson, his performance on the House balcony was merely an outworking of his God-given task. Authorities attempted to arrest Dawson after the balcony incident, but he resisted, assaulting an officer in the process. Upon his arrest, Dawson was ordered to appear in court. As a result of Dawson’s disruptive behavior, the court ordered him to stay away from the Capitol building. The pastor refused to both attend court and comply with its request, writing a letter where he once again called himself a prophet and declared his allegiance to divine law, not civil law.
Monday, Mar. 28, Dawson, age 66, landed on the governmental radar once more. This time his behavior proved much more dangerous than before. As he walked through a metal detector at the Capitol Hill Visitor Center, it beeped and Dawson was detained by police. He revealed a handgun and brandished it at an officer who he then shot and was shot in return. Dawson’s injuries were not fatal and he is reported to be in stable but critical condition. He is scheduled to appear in D.C. Superior Court upon his release from the hospital. One other individual, described by U.S. Capitol police chief, Matthew Verderosa, as an adult woman, was also injured by flying shrapnel. However, Verderosa stated that her wounds were not life-threatening.
Following the incident, police ordered a lockdown of all Capitol Hill facilities which lasted for roughly an hour. Both the U.S. Capitol Police and the District of Colombia Police Department assured the general public that Dawson’s unnerving conduct was an isolated incident. As quoted by CNN, Verderosa reiterated the assertion in a statement, affirming, “we believe this is an act of a single person who has frequented the Capitol grounds before…there is no reason to believe this is anything more than a criminal act.”
While fears have been allayed, many are thankful few lawmakers were on Capitol Hill that day. House Speaker Paul Ryan publicly praised law enforcement for their efficient response to the danger and their efforts to protect the thousands of tourists who frequent the Hill each day. According to eyewitness Jane Epstein, the incident “was surreal” as police yelled at civilians to “run for it.” Many ran without their personal belongings such as phones and wallets which were on the conveyor belt going through the metal detectors. It was a beautiful day, yet chaos and pandemonium reigned within the center. As Epstein further related in an interview recorded by CNBC, “the cherry blossoms are in bloom and people are running for their lives…it was unsettling and scary”.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 12th print edition.
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