Lack of Security Allowed Knife-Wielding Man to Enter Oregon Senate

Troopers are stationed at doors, but no metal detectors or security clearance required for entry


SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A man ran into the nearly empty Oregon Senate chamber Monday and sat at the podium for nearly an hour, holding a 12-inch butcher knife to his chest, before police arrested him.

Boyd A. Owens, 54, gave up without a struggle. No one was harmed.

Lawmakers had not yet convened when the standoff began, and only a few people were in the chamber. Authorities ordered them out.

Owens approached the podium yelling obscenities. During the standoff, he talked to himself and smoked a cigarette, authorities said.

The Capitol's closed-circuit television system showed Owens as he shouted and gesticulated wildly. Several minutes of the footage were broadcast on Oregon television, but Owens' words could not be heard because the audio was switched off.

His motives were unclear. State Police Maj. Dan Durbin said Owens demanded to speak with the governor and talked about "housing problems."

In the House, staff members locked the chamber's doors as soon as they learned of the man in the Senate.

State troopers are often stationed at the doors to the Capitol, but no security clearance is required to enter the building and there are no metal detectors. Security screeners sometimes search purses and briefcases but only during special events such as inaugurations.

Legislative leaders convened an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss security. Democratic state Sen. Peter Courtney predicted new measures would be adopted in light of the incident.

"We've tried to have as much public access as possible," he said. "Obviously, this is a dose of reality."