Armed Man Bursts Into Capitol, Leads Police on Four-Floor Chase

Police gather around a car driven onto the U. S. Capitol plaza in Washington Monday
A man crashed his vehicle into a security barricade at the Capitol, ran into the building and was arrested, forcing the complex to briefly be locked down, authorities said. (Dennis Cook -- AP)
By Allison Klein and Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A man drove past security and onto the grounds of the U.S. Capitol yesterday morning and then ran deep inside the building, leading police on a wild chase covering all four main floors before he was cornered in the basement.

More than 25 officers pursued the man, and some managed to wrestle him to the floor outside a room where flags are stored. It was only after they searched him that they found a loaded gun in his waistband. No shots were fired, and no one was injured.

The man, identified as Carlos Greene, 20, also was carrying crack cocaine and cash, authorities said. He suffered a seizure after his arrest and was hospitalized last night.

Police said they had been unable to interview Greene and had not determined why he went to the Capitol in a borrowed sport-utility vehicle.

The episode raised questions about security, and authorities have promised a thorough investigation. Besides getting onto the grounds by crashing through a construction site just behind the Capitol, Greene apparently had little trouble getting inside the building through a restricted entrance on the third floor.

The incident was remarkable in light of the security buildup that followed the slayings of two Capitol Police officers in 1998 and the roughly $2 billion Congress has budgeted for its security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It also uncovered weaknesses in a Capitol police force that has grown to 2,300 officers -- bigger than the police departments of some cities.

"It's not a good set of circumstances when a person with a gun can enter the Capitol," said former Capitol Police chief Terrance W. Gainer, who left the department in the spring. "Something didn't happen right."

The incident began about 7:45 a.m. and ended minutes later. Authorities locked down the Capitol until 9 a.m. while they sorted out what had happened, and the security gaps were quickly apparent. It was not until 5:30 p.m. that Acting Capitol Police Chief Christopher M. McGaffin came forward to give the first official account; throughout the day, his spokeswoman declined repeatedly to talk to reporters.

McGaffin pledged to review security and make all needed improvements.

"This was unacceptable by my expectations for the Capitol Police," he said. "It was an unfortunate breach of our security, but it wasn't a total breach. . . . We isolated this individual. We subdued him. No one was hurt."

Greene, of Silver Spring, had drugs in his system, McGaffin said. Greene, who will be charged with possession of a handgun and related offenses, including assaulting a police officer, McGaffin said, could be in U.S. District Court by today.

Court records show that Greene has had brushes with the law in Maryland and the District in the past three years. He was convicted of disorderly conduct in Montgomery County and of fleeing a law enforcement officer in the District. He is awaiting trial in the District after a June arrest on gun and traffic charges. He was to appear today before a judge in Montgomery for allegedly violating terms of his probation.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company