May 26, 2006

Police impose new lockdown on Capitol

By Rick Cowan and Donna Smith

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Police imposed a new lockdown on the
U.S. Capitol on Friday, after briefly reopening the building
following a security incident at the nearby Rayburn House of
Representatives office building.

Police were investigating the sound of gunfire in the
garage level of the Rayburn building, which houses offices of
members of the House, officials said. The lockdown barred
people from entering or leaving Capitol buildings.

"We have no reports of injuries at this time," Kimberly
Schneider, public affairs officer for the Capitol police, told
a news conference. A Reuters reporter saw a person being
wheeled out of the Rayburn building on a stretcher. Schnedier
said if somebody was on a stretcher it could have been

Police said earlier there was a firing range two floors
away from the garage and the Rayburn building and tunnels below
the Capitol remained closed during the police investigation.

Senate Sergeant at Arms Bill Pickle told Reuters there were
no reports of any arrests or injuries though several ambulances
were brought to the scene.

"We have been told by staff of shots fired and the smell of
smoke," Pickle said. He later raised the possibility that a
firecracker might have been the cause.

Security at the Capitol and across official Washington was
tightened after the September 11 attacks. Congressional
buildings have been evacuated quickly and locked down several
times since in the face of perceived threats.

There was a shooting incident in July 1998 when two Capitol
Police officers were killed.

Pickle said police had cordoned off the area where they
believed the shots came from.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican and head of the
House intelligence committee, told an open hearing of the
reports of gunfire.

Hoekstra's spokesman, Jamal Ware, said Capitol Police were
monitoring the situation. "We have been asked to close the
doors," he said.

Many members of Congress had left Washington, getting an
early start on a week-long congressional recess. The House was
not in session and the Senate was winding down.

Doors had been locked at the three large House office
buildings and people were not being allowed to leave or enter
the Capitol.