A congressional staffer got past a security checkpoint with a Halloween costume a toy gun in a bag yesterday, throwing the House side of Capitol Hill into a 90-minute panic. Police feared that a gunman had slipped into a congressional office building, the Washington Post reports.
The episode at the Cannon House Office Building began when a distracted security officer spotted the image of a snub-nosed revolver an X-ray machine after the bag owner had passed the security area. Within minutes, police raced through the building, searching halls, offices and closets for a gunman. The five-story building was locked down, underground tunnels were closed and the House of Representatives went into recess.
Then two staffers from the office of Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.) suspected that they were the reason the SWAT teams were summoned. They contacted U.S. Capitol Police. The weapon turned out to be a plastic .38-caliber revolver, intended to help a woman portray “Alias” television character Sydney Bristow at a Halloween party. No charges were filed.
The episode revealed that a gunman could have got past the X-ray machine and three security officers meant to protect more than 100 House members and their staff working in one of three office buildings across the street from the Capitol. “I will readily admit we need to sharpen some of our security procedures here,” Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said.
“Clearly . . . there were some very serious questions that need be addressed surrounding this incident, and we intend to seek answers immediately,” Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.) said in a statement. The two are the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on House Administration.