U.S. Capitol Reopens After Sign-Carrying Man Commits Suicide

Cherry blossoms are seen on the US Capitol grounds in Washington, DC on April 8, 2015.

Photograph: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Capitol building reopened after being locked down following what police called a suicide by gunshot wound, on a day when the city was thronged with tourists viewing Washington’s famous cherry blossoms.

A sign-carrying man, whose name hasn’t been released pending further investigation and notification of next of kin, took his life on the West Front of the building, Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said Saturday. There is no connection to terrorism, Dine told reporters in a briefing.

Authorities investigated a roller suitcase and a backpack belonging to the shooter. Dine declined to describe the contents of either and said the man’s sign related to “social justice.”

Eyewitnesses described seeing the man near the Capitol building, which houses the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, shortly after 1 p.m.

Robert Bishop of Annapolis, Maryland, who estimated he was 20 feet to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) away when the incident occurred, said an “older gentleman” was wielding a sign.

An off-duty Capitol Police officer moved people away from the scene after a shot was heard in a crowd, he said.

“Everyone just sort of started scrambling,” Bishop said. The man “hit the ground and stayed there.”

The Capitol building was closed for more than an hour after the shooting. Lawmakers have been on recess for two weeks and weren’t meeting at the time.

Capitol Police were assisted by multiple law enforcement agencies, including the District of Columbia Police Department, which is now taking over the death investigation, the D.C. Fire Department, the FBI and the Secret Service.

The incident came as tens of thousands of visitors flocked to the annual Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, one of Washington’s largest spectator events.

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