Friday, July 19, 2024

The United States Capitol Police arrested a Georgia man with a rifle near the Capitol and Senate office buildings on Tuesday afternoon, putting Congress and the Capitol complex on high alert.

The incident occurred at about 12:40 p.m., when a witness alerted a Capitol Police officer that an armed man was walking in the park across from Union Station, according to an account released on Tuesday evening by the agency. The officer called for backup, which quickly arrived.

Officers spotted the man carrying a rifle in one hand, and demanded that he drop the gun. When the man refused, an officer used a stun gun on him, allowing officers to seize the weapon and arrest him, according to a police statement. The park was temporarily closed while investigators searched the area and the man’s belongings.

The gun the man was carrying was similar in appearance to an AR-15, police said.

They identified him as Ahmir Lavon Merrell, 21, of Atlanta. Police records show he has a warrant for a probation violation out of Georgia.

Officers said they did not yet know what Mr. Merrell was doing in Washington. He was charged with several gun offenses, including being a felon in possession of a firearm and being a fugitive from justice.

“‘See something, say something’ is not just an empty slogan,” Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Capitol Police said in the statement. “We are grateful for the individual who alerted our officer to the man with a gun in the park. These cops immediately ran toward the man with the loaded gun. As always, I am proud of our cops.”

Capitol Police said they have confiscated more than 30 guns this year.

Many in the Capitol have been on edge amid heightened intimidation and threats. In August, police evacuated Senate office buildings after a report of an active shooter that the police chief later suggested was the result of “a bogus call.”

During the race to choose a new House speaker, members reported facing death threats, and the violence of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the complex is still fresh in the minds of many who work there.

“This afternoon, it was reported that the U.S. Capitol Police arrested a suspect who was heavily armed on the Capitol complex,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader, said in a statement. “Weapons of war have no place on our streets, and I am grateful to the brave members of the U.S.C.P. who acted swiftly to apprehend the suspect and protect the Capitol Hill community.”

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