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Washington Police Shoot Man After He Pulls Gun At Capitol

A U.S. Secret Service agent stands guard at the White House, which went into lockdown after a shooting incident on March 28.

WASHINGTON -- A man pulled a gun as he tried to enter the visitors' complex to the U.S. Capitol, prompting police officers to fire on him, and sparking a brief lockdown of both the Capitol complex and the White House.

The man was wounded in the shooting, which took place early in the afternoon on March 28 and added to security jitters in Washington, which like other world cities has been on edge since last week's suicide bombings in Brussels.

Matthew Verderosa, chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, later described the incident as merely criminal, not terrorist.

He said the man entered the facility, which screens tourists and other visitors entering the building housing both chambers of Congress, and pulled a gun as he was being checked by security. Capitol officers then shot and wounded the man, he said.

The man was taken to a hospital for surgery; Verderosa said his condition was unknown.

No officers were injured, Verderosa said, although a woman who was a bystander in the facility suffered some injury.

“Based on the initial investigation, we believe this was an act of a single person who has frequented the Capitol grounds before and there is no reason to believe that this is anything more than a criminal act,” he said.

Earlier, police cordoned off the grounds of the entire Capitol complex, which includes the chambers for both the House of Representatives and the Senate and occupies several city blocks. Congress was in recess, so few, if any, senators or representatives were believed to be in the building.

About an hour after the initial reports of gunshots, the Washington city police department said in a message on Twitter that it was an "isolated incident" and there was no active threat to the public. And a lockdown order, which was issued for both the Capitol and the White House, was lifted after about 90 minutes.

Busy with tourists and federal workers on any average day, the U.S. capital this week was seeing an exceptional number of visitors due to the famed Cherry Blossom Festival and the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, which featured thousands of children and their parents.

The city is also hosting later this week a major summit of world leaders to discuss nuclear security around the globe. City and federal officials had begun closing off streets and putting security measures in place in the neighborhoods near the White House.

With reporting by AP and Reuters​
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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent in Prague, where he reports on developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and money laundering. Before joining RFE/RL in 2015, he worked for the Associated Press in Moscow. He has also reported and edited for The Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera America, Voice of America, and the Vladivostok News.