One U.S. Capitol police officer is dead following what officials described as a “critical incident” involving a reported vehicle ramming and a knife-wielding suspect, who has also died.
Yogananda Pittman, acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, confirmed the death of the officer following the attack, in a press conference with journalists on Friday afternoon.
“The suspect did start lunging towards U.S. Capitol police officers at which time U.S. Capitol police officers fired upon the suspect. At this time, the suspect has been pronounced deceased,” Pittman said.
She added it is with “a heavy heart” that she confirmed one officer succumbed to injuries from the attack but said no further details are available right now pending notification of next-of-kin.
“This has been an extremely difficult time for U.S. Capitol police after the events of Jan. 6,” she said.
The attack does not appear to be terrorism-related, police said, adding there is no indication at this time that the suspect was connected to any Congress member, and that they were not known to police.
In a written statement issued following the press conference, U.S. Capitol Police confirmed that the suspect was a male who “rammed his vehicle” into a barricade outside the federal legislature.
Police added that the man “exited the vehicle and ran towards our officers with a knife,” prompting at least one officer to fire on the suspect. One of the officers was transported to hospital in a police cruiser, while the second officer and the suspect were transported to hospital in other emergency vehicles.
“The investigation is ongoing. We will provide more details as soon as we can,” police said.
In a statement, Pittman identified the dead police officer William F. Evans.
“It is with profound sadness 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,” read the statement.
“He began his USCP service on March 7, 2003, and was a member of the Capitol Division’s First Responder’s Unit. Please keep Officer Evans and his family in your thoughts and prayers”
The USPC also later added that the other officer who was injured was now in a “stable and non-threatening condition.”
Police said earlier in the afternoon they were responding to a “critical incident” following reports of a vehicle ramming two officers at a restricted secure entry point on the grounds of the federal legislature.
Photos from the scene show a blue vehicle crashed into a large white barricade, with airbags deployed and the front of the car crushed against the barricade.
The verified Twitter account for the National Guard’s public affairs division also tweeted that they deployed an Immediate Response Force of soldiers and airmen to support the police response.
The incident occurred near the entrance of the building on the Senate side of the Capitol.
The security checkpoint is typically used by senators and staff on weekdays, according to the Associated Press, which also noted that Congress is currently on recess.
U.S. President Joe Biden had just departed the White House for Camp David when the incident occurred. He later released a statement offering condolences to the officer’s family and ordering the White House flags to be ordered to half-mast.
“We know what a difficult time this has been for the Capitol, everyone who works there, and those who protect it,” the president said in the statement.
“I have been receiving ongoing briefings from my Homeland Security Advisor, and will be getting further updates as the investigation proceeds.”
The attack comes nearly three months after violent pro-Trump mobs stormed the U.S. Capitol buildings in an insurrection aimed at disrupting the certification of Electoral College votes that would confirm Biden’s victory.
Earlier in March, U.S. Capitol police said that they would begin scaling back fencing put in place to cut off pedestrian and vehicle traffic to the buildings following the insurrection.
The Associated Press at the time cited Timothy Blodgett, the acting House sergeant-at-arms, as telling members of Congress that the decision came following advice from Capitol police that “there does not exist a known, credible threat” to warrant keeping the barrier in place.
The decision prompted strong bipartisan criticism.
Five people died after the pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump was impeached by the House for inciting that mob. The Senate acquitted him after Republicans opposed the impeachment.
In a statement Friday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the attack and called Evans a “martyr for our democracy.”
“Members of Congress, staff and Capitol workers, and indeed all Americans are united in appreciation for the courage of the U.S. Capitol Police. Today, once again, these heroes risked their lives to protect our Capitol and our Country, with the same extraordinary selflessness and spirit of service seen on January 6,” read her statement.
“May we always remember the heroism of those who have given their lives to defend our Democracy. 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.”
With files from The Associated Press.
— More to come.