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Md. Man Tries to Take Knife Into Capitol

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  • By Bill Miller
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, January 28, 1999; Page B1

    A Maryland man with tickets to the Senate impeachment trial was arrested last week when he tried to bring a bag containing an 18-inch knife and two explosives into the Capitol, federal authorities said yesterday.

    Walter Wilson Johnson, 36, was stopped by U.S. Capitol Police at 2 p.m. Jan. 20 when they checked the bag on an X-ray machine. At the time, President Clinton's attorneys, led by special counsel Gregory B. Craig, were presenting their second day of opening arguments before a crowded Senate chamber. Johnson told police he kept the knife for "protection," authorities said.

    Capitol Police said a search of Johnson's bag also turned up two M-60 explosive devices, a "terrorist handbook," weapons price lists, an article on the Oklahoma City bombing, survivalist materials and a Soldier of Fortune magazine. One law enforcement source likened the M-60 devices to bottle rockets and said Johnson had no match or lighter that day to ignite them.

    Johnson, of Capitol Heights, was jailed without bond on charges of carrying a dangerous weapon and illegal explosives. On Monday, a federal judge ordered he be held pending a psychiatric evaluation and set a follow-up hearing for March 17 after citing reports that Johnson has a bipolar disorder.

    Authorities said Johnson's arrest marked the first such incident during the impeachment trial. He was stopped at 2:05 p.m. at the entrance to the Capitol's law library, the area being used for admission to the Senate gallery. If he had gotten past that entrance, police said, he would have faced another search before gaining entrance to the trial. There, all bags must be checked in.

    The episode came six months after a mental patient, Russell Eugene Weston Jr., entered the Capitol and allegedly opened fire and killed two officers. Weston allegedly charged past a checkpoint, gun in hand.

    According to an arrest affidavit, Johnson gave police permission to search his home, where they found a 9mm semiautomatic weapon loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition, a ski mask, more Soldier of Fortune magazines, and other items.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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