Lockdown of US Capitol lifted after man fatally shoots himself

Sunday, April 12, 2015
(Greg Brooks (@GregBrooksOH) )
Greg Brooks (@GregBrooksOH)

WASHINGTON -- A precautionary lockdown of the U.S. Capitol was lifted after about two hours Saturday following an apparent suicide.

The man died after shooting himself on the west front of the Capitol building, which triggered a roughly two-hour lockdown, Capitol Police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider said.

No one was allowed to leave or enter the Capitol or the visitors' center during the lockdown on a busy day for tourists, and some streets around the area were closed. No one else was hurt.

Robert Bishop of Annapolis, Maryland, said he was biking near the steps of the Capitol when the suicide occurred.

He said there were 50 to 60 people in the area at the time, and there was no warning that the man was about to shoot himself.

Bishop didn't witness the suicide but said other people in the area did, including a girl and her mother who immediately began crying afterward.

After being allowed to leave the Capitol, Bishop said he saw authorities taking clothes out of a carry-on suitcase that the man had.

"That's why they shut everything down," Bishop said.

Police had said they were investigating a suspicious package during the lockdown.

Elizabeth Hays and Michael Stanis of Pittsburg said they were taking a tour inside the Capitol and were just getting ready to leave when their group was told the Capitol was in lockdown and they weren't allowed out.

Hays said they were told by a worker in the Capitol that someone had committed suicide and that the person had bags around them when it occurred.

During the lockdown, about a dozen police cars, black SUVs and an ambulance congregated at the bottom of the west steps of the Capitol, which overlooks the bustling National Mall.

Police appeared to take measurements as bomb squad members searched the area. Nearer the mall, visitors gathered around trying to figure out what was going on.

The lockdown came during Washington's annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which attracts thousands of tourists during Washington's busy season.

Congress has been on spring recess for two weeks and lawmakers are set to return to work Monday.