Suicide Shooting At U.S. Capitol During Cherry Blossom Festival Locks Down Area For Three Hours

A man committed suicide by shooting himself in the head on the western steps of the U.S. Capitol Saturday afternoon, sending the area into a precautionary security lockdown.

The lockdown was lifted three hours later after authorities investigated the shooting along with a suspicious package. The shooting was confirmed as a suicide, Capitol Police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider told CNN.

“Confirmed: ‎self-inflicted gunshot by neutralized subject. Multiple law enforcement/emergency services have responded in support of the incident.”

After calls came in reporting that shots had been fired on the steps of the Capitol at approximately 1 p.m., the area went into security lockdown. Pedestrian traffic was stopped and police sent email to congressional staffers instructing them to shelter in place as they investigated the shooting.

Congress was not in session at the time of the Capitol suicide shooting, having left for spring break two week ago; however they are returning to work Monday.

The Capitol Building and visitor’s center were locked down and no one was allowed to enter or exit the buildings. Several nearby area streets were also closed.

A bomb squad was sent in to investigate the lower west terrace and check out a rolling luggage bag as a suspicious package, but they didn’t find anything dangerous. No additional weapons were discovered either.

Officers taped the area off with yellow police tape. Witnesses could see a DC hazardous materials truck inside the perimeter while police dogs sniffed out the area, according to the Washington Post.

Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine told the National Journal the man who committed suicide had a backpack, as well as a sign and a suitcase. He said the sign contained a “social justice” message, but wouldn’t elaborate.

Eyewitnesses told the National Journal that the man was a “nondescript older gentleman” and the sign said something about the one percent.

Multiple law enforcement agencies responded to the shooting, including D.C. Metro Police and the D.C. Fire Department, according to Fox News.

Authorities said there was no indication of terrorism.

The security lockdown was lifted at approximately 4 p.m. although the western steps will remain closed until further notice while capitol police continue their investigation on the suicide shooting.

Authorities are withholding the man’s name pending the notification of next of kin.

The suicide shooting happened as the Capitol prepared to celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival, a major tourist attraction that draws thousands of visitors every year.

[Image from Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images]