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Car Rammed 2 U.S. Capitol Police Officers At A Barricade At The Capitol

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A police officer is dead, along with a suspect who rammed a vehicle past a new security perimeter at the U.S. Capitol. The incident comes nearly three months after the January 6 insurrection. Here is the acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda Pittman.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YOGANANDA PITTMAN: And it is with a very, very heavy heart that I announce one of our officers has succumbed to his injuries.

CHANG: The dead officer was identified as William Evans, an 18-year veteran of the force. We're joined now by NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Hi, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So this has been another incredibly difficult day for Capitol Police. What exactly happened?

GRISALES: Pittman said shortly after 1:00 p.m. local time, the suspect entered what police refer to as the north barricade of the Capitol. Normally, this is a busy entrance to the Senate side, where lawmakers, staff, others come and go, especially as one of the few access points to get past a new fencing barricade, erected after the January 6 riot. But Congress is in recess, so it was supposed to be a quiet day.

Pittman said the suspect rammed his car into two of their officers and struck a barricade at this entrance, and then he exited his vehicle, lunging at officers with a knife, at which time they opened fire. Pittman said the suspect was pronounced dead, while two U.S. Capitol police officers who were struck by the vehicle were transported to area hospitals. We now know one of those officers is William Evans, who was known as Billy, died and, as you said, had served with the department for 18 years. This as another officer remains injured from the incident.

CHANG: Well, I understand President Biden and lawmakers have weighed in. What have they said so far?

GRISALES: Yes, President Biden said he's being briefed on what happened. He said he and first lady Jill Biden were saddened to hear of the violent attack and shared their condolences with the Evans family and, for now, the other officer fighting for his life. They also expressed gratitude to Capitol Police. And this is the similar note that we heard from congressional leaders and rank-and-file members who have sounded similar concerns and condolences. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Evans will be considered a martyr for democracy.

Meanwhile, Ohio Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, whose subcommittee oversees the Capitol, told reporters this will impact ongoing discussions on how to address new funding for security at the Capitol, balancing the difficulties of finding a, quote, "sweet spot" for what looks like a safe place for lawmakers and others, such as fencing and other concerns. He also said this incident ripped off a scab, if you will, that was left behind after the insurrection has really impacted this family that now includes these officers, lawmakers and others.

CHANG: Yeah. OK, so what is next in the investigation?

GRISALES: Acting DC Police Chief Robert Contee said his department's homicide and internal affairs divisions will investigate the death of the officer and the suspect. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERT CONTEE: Clearly, this was someone who was actively trying to just get at whoever, whatever. We just don't know right now. So we have a responsibility to investigate that, to get to the bottom of this.

GRISALES: He also told reporters there was no indication the suspect was known to area law enforcement or that this is terrorism related.

CHANG: Well, as we've been saying, I mean, this year has been just intensely stressful for Capitol Police so far. How was that acknowledged today?

GRISALES: Yes, everybody is remembering the insurrection and how Capitol Police lost two officers after that incident. And now with today's tragedy, you could really hear it in officials who spoke to reporters today. Let's take a listen to Pittman as she recognizes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PITTMAN: I just ask that the public continue to keep U.S. Capitol Police and their families in your prayers. This has been an extremely difficult time for U.S. Capitol Police.

GRISALES: So the Capitol has seen security installed after the insurrection reduced in recent weeks and a scale-back of the presence of the National Guard and the takedown of this outer perimeter of fencing. That's going to shape current talks in terms of if they continue to do this and what more lawmakers can do to support these officers.

CHANG: That is NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thank you, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.