By Kaitie Christenberry | Echo
As masses visited the Capitol building for Spring Break and the blooming of the cherry blossoms on Monday, Larry Russell Dawson pulled a handgun during a security check at the Capitol's Visitor Center around 2:40 p.m. An officer opened fire, injuring Dawson in the chest and thigh. He underwent surgery and is now stable and waiting to be released. The 66-year-old Tennessee resident now faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon and assaulting a police officer.
No officers were injured, but a female civilian sustained a face injury from a bullet fragment.
Ohio resident Diane Bilo told the Washington Post, "My husband said he heard a shot followed by a full clip." She was in the cafeteria while her husband and two children witnessed the incident.
Officers rushed to the Visitor Center while police on site detained the shooter. Civilians were ushered outdoors and told to stay against the building's wall.
Jill Epstein, the executive director of the California Association of the Marriage and Family Therapists, waited in the Visitor Center for a meeting when the incident occurred. "It was surreal," Epstein told NBC News. "It was so beautiful out and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and people are running for their lives."
This isn't the first shooting incident Dawson has been involved with. Last October, Dawson assaulted a police officer at the chamber of the House of Representatives. According to the incident reports, Dawson claimed he was a "prophet of God."
The judge told Dawson not to go near the Capitol building, or the surrounding streets. Dawson failed to appear for his November hearing, and sent a letter to the court saying he was chosen, and therefore not compelled under the law.
After the shooting, the Visitor Center was closed off, but the staff resumed activities as normal. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa told media, "We believe this is the act of a single person who has frequented the grounds of the Capitol before." As a precaution, however, the North and South entrances were closed for the remainder of the day.
In a statement, House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN, "The Capitol is our greatest symbol of democracy, and these officers serve to protect not just those who work there but also the millions of visitors from all around the world who travel each year to see it."