With hundreds of people watching from First Street and near the Capitol Reflecting Pool, bomb squad technicians X-rayed the bags. The results revealed that one suitcase might contain an explosive device because it contained wires, batteries and what appeared to be a timer, Gainer said.
After "disrupting" the bags with an explosive blast about 3:15 p.m., police determined that the bag contained nothing more than a CD player, batteries and a "watch or something," Gainer said.
U.S. Capitol Police approach a man standing with two suitcases. The man, identified as Wenhao Zhao, 33, of Australia, was apprehended.
(Mark Wilson -- Getty Images)
Gainer and other Capitol officials said officers acted appropriately.
Some Capitol workers were told to avoid windows, but other business went on as usual. A Senate session opened at 2 p.m. as scheduled.
Police, "at the time, used good judgment," said William H. Pickle, the Senate sergeant at arms. "They didn't know he didn't have a detonator. They didn't know what was in the bags."
Several hundred tourists, many of whom said they were not allowed inside the Capitol, watched it all.
Luke Thompson, 22, visiting from Glen Elder, Kan., said he was disappointed when his Capitol tour was canceled. But he said he didn't mind witnessing the police response.
"This kind of thing doesn't happen where I'm from," Thompson said. "It's a big shock. We missed our tour, but we got to see how the security is working."
Staff writers Sari Horwitz and Martin Weil and staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.