Park Police Helicopter Makes Dramatic Landing Outside US Capitol After Car Rams Barrier (Updated)
The incident has offered a glimpse of the plans that are now in place to respond to these kinds of contingencies.
Details are coming in quickly, but a U.S. Park Police Bell 412 helicopter was seen making an unusual landing on the lawn outside of the east front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., following a major security incident. The U.S. Capitol Police says that two of its officers were injured when a car rammed into a security barricade outside of the building.
There are reports that the driver then exited the vehicle wielding a knife and was shot by other Capitol Police officers. The two officers injured when the car hit the barrier, as well as the suspect, were then sent to an unspecified hospital.
Video footage of where the car crashed into the barrier had shown first responders bring out stretchers to tend to those who had been injured. One of the U.S. Capitol Police officers is reportedly in critical condition.
The incident also triggered a general lockdown and sent sirens and alerts blaring from a "Giant Voice" emergency public address system, which you can read more about here. That system had also been set off after a fire broke out near the Capitol on Jan. 18, which was quickly determined to not actually have been a security threat. The Capitol Police also instructed people within the overall Capitol Complex to seek shelter, including in underground tunnels, which you read more about here.
Separately, there were reports that the D.C. National Guard had begun mobilizing personnel to respond to any further incidents.
Security in Washington has been heavy since a mob stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6 in the run-up to President Joe Biden's inauguration. The Capitol complex and significant surrounding areas are now literally fenced off. In March, a decision was also made to keep National Guard elements in place in the city at least until late May, citing concerns about the potential for future attacks.
The U.S. Park Police is the law enforcement component of the National Park Service and has jurisdiction in various locales across the United States, including various areas in and around Washington, D.C. Their Bell 412 helicopters, which are equipped with sensor turrets under their noses containing electro-optical and infrared video cameras, routinely conduct patrols in the skies over the nation's capital. Park Police officers also train to fire small arms for the doors of these helicopters at threats on the ground.
The ability of the Bell 412 to land right outside the Capitol that was demonstrated today is interesting in itself, as it points to tactics, techniques, and procedures that could be employed in so-called continuity of government operations. Under these plans, the U.S. military and other government agencies are prepared to quickly move senior officials, especially the President and their closest advisors and leaders of Congress, to secure, hardened locations, including various underground bunkers, to ensure the U.S. government continues to function even in the midst of severe crises. A wide array of helicopters stationed around the capital are tasked with this doomsday mission.
We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.
UPDATE, 3:05 PM EST:
The U.S Capitol Police has now confirmed that one of its officers succumbed to the injuries they sustained in this incident. The suspect who drove the car is also dead. Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said the incident "does not appear to be terrorism-related" and that "we just don't know" what the suspect's motives were.
It has also been confirmed that a National Guard Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was deployed to the Capitol. Overall, the incident has shined a light on the contingency response plans that are now in place around the Capitol.
UPDATE, 4:05 PM EST:
The D.C. National Guard has clarified that it actually activated a QRF that was already in place at the Capitol and did not deploy any additional forces there as a result of this incident.
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