WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. Capitol Police officer fired a gun inside a break room in a House office building on Tuesday and was promptly suspended — the latest stain for a police department struggling to regain the public's trust following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection and a recent communications failure that triggered an evacuation.
The agency said the officer discharged the firearm at around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Cannon House Office Building and its Office of Professional Responsibility launched an investigation. The officer was suspended as the investigation continues, police said.
The circumstances surrounding the gun discharge were unclear, but no injuries were immediately reported.
Tuesday’s episode comes as the Capitol Police try to restore the trust of the public more than a year after thousands of rioters loyal to then-President Donald Trump pushed their way past overwhelmed officers — leaving many bloodied and bruised — in an effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election win.
Last month, the Capitol Police ordered the evacuation of the Capitol — sending congressional staffers fleeing from office buildings — over a plane that was flying near the complex. It turned out the plane was actually carrying members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights who later parachuted into Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals, for the team's Military Appreciation Night.
The Federal Aviation Administration later said it failed to notify the Capitol Police in advance about the flight, leading to the evacuation. The episode represented a stunning communications breakdown, all the more remarkable because of Washington’s focus on improving security following the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
Capitol Police acknowledged failing to act on clear warnings that far-right groups and extremists loyal to Trump would rally at the Capitol as lawmakers inside certified his loss to Biden. Its officers were left unprepared to stop thousands of people who broke through police lines and stormed the building.
More than 100 police officers were injured on Jan. 6. One officer was beaten and shocked repeatedly with a stun gun until he had a heart attack. Rioters crushed another officer between two doors and bashed him in the head with his own weapon. The riot delayed for several hours the certification of Biden’s victory.
In December 2021, police initiated a brief lockdown after a congressional staffer walked into a legislative building with a handgun in his bag and was allowed to proceed through the security checkpoint with it. The staffer was located and apprehended minutes later.