Special to SEGAZINE
3:22 PMSuspected reportedly tried to breach White House grounds
3:21 PMSeeing the chase from the Capitol steps
3:16 PMSources: Chase began near White House
3:14 PMPhotos from inside during the shelter in place
3:11 PMPresident briefed on reports of gunfire
Shots were fired outside the U.S. Capitol Thursday afternoon, and at least one Capitol Police officer was injured in the incident, police said.
The shooting occurred about 2:19 p.m. outside the Hart Senate Office building, on the northeast side of Capitol Hill near the intersection of Constitution Avenue, 2nd Street, and Maryland Avenue NE.
Witnesses reported two bursts of gunfire: it was unclear who did the shooting, whether it was the police or another person or both. Afterward, rescuers transported at least one injured person from the scene.
Federal officials said that the incident had actually begun near the White House, when a car struck a security bollard at 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue NE. A pursuit started and the driver was chased toward Capitol Hill.
There, eyewitnesses reported seeing a black car speeding down the street, pursued by several police vehicles.
“At first I thought the driver was trying to get out of the way of police but then I realized he was being chased,” said Giancarlo Refalo, a tourist from Malta.
Refalo said he heard several gunshots followed by “lots of screaming and shouting.” Then the black vehicle came back on 1st Street toward Constitution chased by police. “They were swerving all over the place,” he said “by that time I was hiding in the bushes because I was so scared.”
“We was up at the Capitol, seeing some of the protesters, saw five or six cop cars chasing that car,” said Ryan Christiansen, from Idaho Falls, Idaho. He said it was a small black car that looked like a Toyota Celica, and that police had chased it “around and around” a traffic circle near the Capitol.
“I thought it was a motorcade,” he said.
“He was pulling away, and somewhere between six and eight shots were fired,” Christiansen said.Police tried to corner the driver with their cars and block him in, “but he got out of that and got away.”
He said he heard the shots and police told them all to hit the ground.
“Then there was a loud bang,” Christiansen said.
At the time, the Capitol was full of lawmakers and staff, stuck in the middle of a bitter debate about the government shutdown.
After the first shots were heard, officers with semiautomatic weapons were seen running toward the building’s exits.
“It was almost like two very rapid fire bursts, very loud,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) was standing on a balcony of the Capitol building with Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) when they heard two bursts of gunfire. Connolly thought the shots had come from the opposite direction, toward the House office buildings to the south.
After the shots, Connolly said, “that’s when we saw people fleeing, and we realized this was no fireworks,” Connolly said. “It sounds liked the first volley of a 21 -gun salute.”
Connolly said he could see people fleeing away from the Rayburn building and police officers running towards it before he was shepherded back into the building.
Connolly says he was told by the sergeant-at-arms that a suspect has been apprehended. The D.C. fire and emergency medical services department said one person had been transported to a hospital for treatment.
The order sent to Capitol personnel began with an all-caps message: SHELTER IN PLACE. “Gunshots have been reported on Capitol Hill requiring staff in all Senate Office Buildings to immediately shelter in place. Close, lock and stay away from external doors and windows,” said the message, sent by Capitol Police.