— Arlington, Va. — A blue car charged up Constitution Avenue. It turned into the last gate before the plaza that surrounds the Senate side of the Capitol Hill complex. It crashed into a special, heavy-duty, moveable vehicle barrier. Two U.S. Capitol Police officers were knocked over. The suspect exited the car and ran towards another officer, brandishing a large knife. He was shot and later confirmed dead. Tragically, one of the U.S. Capitol Police officers also lost his life.
It was a shocking Good Friday in a sunny but chilly US capital city. It could have been a lot worse, reporters and anchors noted repeatedly in their live reports, but few were actually working on Capitol Hill. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) noted that the death toll could have been far worse if the assailant had an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle similar to ones used in mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado in March.
The U.S. Congress is on recess and many congressional staffers took this spring Friday off for both the Christian and Jewish holidays, as Passover continues.
As the investigation continues, it is thought this was not an act of terror or an attack in the vein of the political violence of January 6, 2021, when some 800 Trump supporters and white supremacists stormed the iconic U.S. Capitol, demanding a second term in office for Donald Trump.
Reports say the suspect is Noah Green, a young American from Indiana who may be a follower of the Nation of Islam, an American splinter group led by Louis Farrakhan, known for his Black nationalist and anti-Semitic views. The Nation of Islam website also promotes conspiracy theories about coronavirus vaccines.
According to social media, Green had recently lost his job, but he has no criminal record. Law enforcement will be combing through his posts to try to determine a motive for the attack.
Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman confirmed the death of Officer William “Billy” Evans. “It is with profound sadness,” Pittman said, “that I share the news of the passing of Officer William ‘Billy’ Evans this afternoon from injuries he sustained following an attack at the North Barricade by a lone assailant.”
“Officer Evans had been a member of the United States Capitol Police for 18 years,” Pittman went on to say. “He began his USCP service on March 7, 2003, and was a member of the Capitol Division’s First Responder’s Unit.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic, ordered the flags lowered on Capitol Hill shortly after the attack ended. Pelosi issued a statement praising Officer Evans: “May we always remember the heroism of those who have given their lives to defend our Democracy,” she said. “May it be a comfort to the family of Officer Evans that so many mourn with them and pray for them at this sad time.”
Senators Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said they were in Officer Evans debt for his selfless sacrifice.
Speaker Pelosi’s words were echoed by dozens of lawmakers on social media, most from hundreds if not thousands of miles away, at home in their congressional districts. Prayers and condolences went out to the Evans family, with gratitude to the beleaguered U.S. Capitol Police. As officer Evans’ body departed the George Washington University Medical Center in a long motorcade, the many officers of law enforcement which protect Washington stopped and saluted their fallen comrade.
From the presidential retreat at Camp David, the White House issued a statement, expressing President Biden and his wife Jill’s heartbreak at he violent attack at a security checkpoint on the U.S. Capitol grounds, “I want to express the nation’s gratitude to the Capitol Police, the National Guard Immediate Response Force, and others who quickly responded to this attack. As we mourn the loss of yet another courageous Capitol Police officer, I have ordered that the White House flags be lowered to half-mast.”
In an opinion piece for Religion News Service, U.S. President Joe Biden said Americans should have a care for all at this time of pandemic, but also of more basic concerns, such as jobs and food. “We have a duty to care for all those who are hurting: to provide food to the millions of Americans who are hungry; to keep a roof over the heads of families pushed to the brink; to treat those on the front lines of this crisis with dignity, and to deliver them greater relief and peace of mind.”
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said the violent incident just ripped the barely healed scabs from the January 6 attacks right off. It has underscored the question of how best to protect official Washington and especially the lawmakers and Congressional staffers on Capitol Hill.
If security measures designed to keep “the fight” out of the Capitol complex worked this time, many are yet concerned that the efforts to keep lawmakers and staffers safe are also preventing millions of Americans from experiencing their democracy in person, in what are supposed to be public buildings where they can talk to their Senators and Representatives about their problems which may have political and legislative solutions.