Student interning in Washington D.C. discusses Monday’s lockdown

By Elizabeth Wallace

 (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)
(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

The Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C., where several University of Massachusetts students are interning, entered a lockdown Monday when a man was shot by police officers after pulling out a gun at a security checkpoint.

Tyler O’Day, a UMass political science and communications major, was approximately two miles away from the Capitol at the time of the incident. O’Day is interning this semester with the Grassroots Division at Dewey Square Group, a consulting firm.

“Throughout the afternoon, I could hear a lot of police sirens going by the office,” O’Day said.

However, O’Day’s apartment is only a block away from the Capitol Visitor Center, and he walks by where the incident took place every morning and afternoon.

According to CNN, a gunman brandished a weapon inside the Capitol Visitor Center during the early afternoon on Monday. Capitol Police responded immediately, injuring the gunman as well as a female bystander, who was hit by flying shrapnel.

According to the Boston Globe, the Capitol remained locked down for approximately an hour following the incident, and the White House experienced a brief lockdown.

Currently, Congress is in recess with representatives in their districts. However, the Capitol was packed with spring tourists and staffers who were told to shelter in place. Additionally, the Easter Egg Roll at the White House brought increased tourists to the city this weekend.

UMass experienced its own shelter in place order on Feb. 18 when two suspects, one considered a “hostile armed person,” assaulted a student in Pierpont Hall. As previously reported by the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, both suspects were arrested and charged with armed robbery, assault and battery with a deadly weapon, and assault and battery.

During UMass’ lockdown, O’Day was in Washington D.C., but received the emergency alert text messages.

According to CBS News, after the attack in Brussels on March 22, Washington D.C. as well as other American cities including Boston, New York and Los Angeles, were placed on heightened alert. The incident at the Capitol Building on March 28 does not have any connection to the bombings in Brussels.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said, “We believe this is an act of a single person who has frequented the Capitol grounds before, and there is no reason to believe this is anything more than a criminal act.”

“The Visitor’s Center served its original purpose as a barrier from more harm being done,” O’Day said. According to the Washington Post, the Capitol Visitor Center’s construction was instigated by a 1998 attack by a gunman on the Capitol Building, resulting in the deaths of two Capitol police officers: Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson.

Amber Phillips of the Washington Post wrote, “(The Visitor Center) would be an air-conditioned welcome spot and meeting point for visitors, but Capitol police officers said it would also be a welcome addition to security by regulating the flow of visitors and providing an evacuation route in case of an emergency.”

“I think that the Capitol Police Department and the Metropolitan Police Department do a tremendous job of keeping a city that has so many of our country’s greatest treasures safe,” said O’Day.

Elizabeth Wallace can be reached at [email protected]