Driver arrested after vehicle rams into Capitol barricade
By Steve Bittenbender
A man is in federal custody after he rammed his car into a barricade to the south side of the U.S. Capitol Friday morning.
Witnesses using social media say the car, a red Nissan Altima with a Florida license plate, did not try to break before hitting the protective barrier around 8:40 a.m. this morning. U.S. Capitol Police and District of Columbia firefighters responded to the scene.
According to Lt. Kimberly Schneider, public information officer for the Capitol Police, Antonio Pierorazio was the lone occupant of the car and was taken into custody at Capitol Police headquarters after the incident. Authorities checked the car and perimeter and found no hazards in the area, she said.
The 51-year-old has been charged with felony destruction of property and unlawful entry.
The vehicle did not break through the secure perimeter, Schneider said. However, the incident prompted officials to close the south barricade, around the intersection of New Jersey and Independence avenues for about 90 minutes.
Friday’s incident marked at least the fourth time in the last four months that someone tried to forcefully enter a federal facility and the third that involved an automobile.
In April, a 61-year-old Florida man was arrested on federal charges after he landed a gyrocopter on the Capitol grounds. According to the Washington Post, Douglas Hughes was trying to protest campaign finance laws and deliver letters to members of Congress on April 15. At a hearing last week, the Post reported that Hughes turned down a plea agreement with a 10-month prison sentence. He faces nearly 10 years in prison.
On June 15, Larry McElroy was shot as he tried to enter Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas, where he crashed his sports utility vehicle just outside the main entrance. Base officials say McElroy tried to make his way onto the base, but he was eventually subdued before he could enter. He was shot in the process, and the 43-year-old died the next day.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said McElroy had no known ties to terrorist groups.
On March 30, one man was killed and another injured when they tried to storm the gate at Fort Meade in Maryland. According to federal officials, Ricky Shawatza Hall was driving a stolen car when he made a wrong turn on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and came upon the main gate of the facility that houses the National Security Agency.
Instead of obeying an officer’s directions to turn around, the NSA said Hall chose to drive toward an agency’s police vehicle, prompting officers to shoot at the vehicle. The vehicle eventually crashed into a deployed barricade. Hall was killed and his passenger, identified as Kevin Lamont Fleming, was seriously injured. An officer with the NSA was also injured.
While federal agencies often use the latest technological advances to protect their facilities and people, often it is simple defensive strategies, like barricades, that can provide the most effective defense.
“Most of the technologies they’re employing now are just kind of evolutions on just old fashioned barriers,” said Grady Emmons, owner of Precision Risk Management Group. “I mean that’s really the best thing you can do to keep the vehicle… from getting close to the target.”