, WASHINGTON, Oct 3 – A volley of shots rang out outside the US Capitol building on Thursday, sending lawmakers and tourists scattering for cover and triggering a massive security operation.
Senators told reporters at the iconic Washington landmark, the seat of Congress that they had heard up to six shots. Police sealed off the building as emergency vehicles converged at the scene.
About half an hour after the incident began, the security lockdown at the Capitol was eased and the doors reopened.
An AFP photographer saw at least one person receiving emergency medical assistance on the north side of the complex, but there was no immediate official word of casualties.
“We heard what was about four shots,” Senator Bernie Sanders had said as tourists and lawmakers rushed into the building to take cover and police hurried to secure the area.
Outside the Dirksen office building, which houses senators’ offices, staff members not sent home by the US government shutdown could be seen taking cover behind trees and vehicles.
Every minute or so, the Capitol Police made a loudspeaker announcement: “If you are in an office building, remain sheltered in place.”
Emergency vehicles converged on the scene, focused on the north side of the iconic landmark.
Just over a mile away, the White House was also placed in lockdown, with Secret Service agents in tactical gear deploying around the building. The security alert was later partially lifted.
Senators told AFP they had been walking with colleagues from a nearby senatorial annex when they heard shots and been forced to take cover.
“We saw people dropping to the ground. Not hit, taking cover,” said Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.