The head of a South Carolina turkey farm and incoming president of a pork lobbying group was arrested in the District Wednesday morning when U.S. Capitol Police said officers found a loaded 9mm handgun in his bag as he tried to enter a congressional office building.
Ronald William Prestage, 59, who lives in Camden, S.C., was charged with carrying a handgun outside a home or office, a felony. Authorities said they believe he was headed to a meeting in the Cannon House Office Building.
It was the second time in five days that police said they caught someone with a gun at that Cannon Building, although at different entrances. On Friday, the press secretary for a Pennsylvania Republican was charged with a gun offense; his attorney said he forgot he had the weapon in a bag.
Officer Shennell S. Antrobus, a spokesman for the U.S. Capitol Police, said Wednesday's incident occurred about 9:20 a.m. at the Rotunda entrance. He said the visitor was searched as a matter of routine and an officer found the loaded Ruger handgun in his bag.
Authorities said they believe Prestage was attending a meeting. Police would not comment on anything the suspect told them.
Prestage is listed as president of Prestage Farms of South Carolina, which according to its Web site employs 100 people and contracts with 90 farmers. The corporate headquarters is located in Clinton, N.C., and is headed by William H. Prestage.
He also is the president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, an industry lobbying group. Dave Warner, the group’s spokesman, declined to comment but said Prestage’s meeting at the Cannon Building did not involve the pork group. He said Prestage, who also raises hogs, is scheduled to take over as president in March 2015.
A relative of Prestage declined to comment on the arrest. A person who answered the phone at the South Carolina company referred reporters to Summer Lanier, the company’s public relations director, who did not return calls. It’s not immediately clear if Prestage brought the gun with him from South Carolina. He has a pilot’s license, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Friday’s incident occurred at the southeast doors of the Cannon Building. Ryan Lee Shucard, press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino (Pa.), was charged with the same gun offense. He was released from jail on Saturday and scheduled to appear in D.C. Superior Court Aug. 7.
Police said that an officer saw a gun magazine with nine hollow-point bullets in a bag as it went through an X-ray machine and then found the unloaded weapon. Shucard’s attorney said his client said taking the gun to work was a mistake and was “completely inadvertent.”
Shucard was put on unpaid administrative leave. Marino represents the Pennsylvania 10th Congressional District, which includes areas north of Scranton.