Man with Suspicious Suitcases Captured at Capitol

Security incident raised questions of possible explosion


WASHINGTON --- Police on Monday tackled and forcibly dragged away a man dressed in black and carrying two suitcases who had stationed himself in front of the west side of the U.S. Capitol.

The midday incident - which occurred during one of Washington's busiest tourist times, the annual flowering of the cherry blossoms - had forced police to evacuate that side of the Capitol in fear of a possible explosion.

Police, some armed with assault rifles, moved in slowly behind the man, who faced the Capitol from a plaza below its west entrance. Crouching behind the wall, the police sprang up and ran full tilt at the man, who never moved.

He was tackled by two policemen and dragged to an ambulance. Police walked the man away from the scene without putting him in the ambulance. They left the suitcases behind.

Some spectators applauded as police dragged the man away.

Before the standoff ended, Capitol police spokesman Michael Lauer said the man had not said anything to police.

Among the officials whose offices are on the west side of the Capitol looking out upon the National Mall are House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

After the incident, Reid praised the Capitol Police officers' performance.

"What they did to get ready to take that man down was extraordinary," Reid said. "We have the finest-trained police force of any place in the country."