In another chilling reminder of the times in which we live, police are investigating an incident in which an armed man shot and killed himself Sunday morning after he rammed his vehicle into the security barricade of the U.S. Capitol.
The man is unidentified as of yet. The U.S. Capitol Police issued a full statement describing the events, saying the man got out of his car after he crashed it and while he was getting out, it became “engulfed in flames.”
The man then fired several shots into the air, police say, and this caused their response. As they approached, the man shot himself. They do not think, at this time, that he was targeting members of Congress, which is in recess. They say they don’t believe any police fired their guns.
JUST IN: Full statement from Capitol Police on man who slammed car into Capitol barricade and fired shots into the air. pic.twitter.com/gT1jTwRMf1
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) August 14, 2022
Tom Manger, the chief of the Capitol police, reportedly by WTOP News, said the man might have set his car on fire after striking the barricade.
“It does appear that it was not the collision with the barricade that caused the fire,” Manger said. “It appears that the individual may have started the fire himself as he was getting out of the car.”
Manger says the man then began walking toward the capitol while firing several shots from a handgun “indiscriminately.”
Many things come to mind in learning of this sad event. It’s lucky that no one else was hurt. We don’t know the man’s background or motivation. He could be anyone right now – anyone who is so distraught that they shot themselves after driving into a barricade.
We don’t know if his motives are even related to politics, though the location of the incident indicates it might be. The FBI and DHS warned of attacks against law enforcement in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago search.
“The FBI is investigating an ‘unprecedented’ number of threats against bureau personnel and property in the wake of the search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, including some against agents listed in court records as being involved in the recent search,” CNN reported Saturday.
FBI Director Chris Wray (a Republican, appointed by Trump) gave a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 4th warning that the top domestic terrorism threat we face continues to be from domestic violent extremists who are racially or ethnically motivated and recently anti-government and anti-authority extremists who have been targeting law enforcement and institutions and members of U.S. government (my bold):
“top domestic terrorism threat we face continues to be from DVEs (domestic violent extremists) we categorize as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs), including those who advocate for the superiority of the white race, who were the primary source of lethal attacks perpetrated by DVEs in recent years. It is important to note that we have also recently seen an increase in fatal DVE attacks perpetrated by anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists, specifically militia violent extremists and anarchist violent extremists. Anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists were responsible for three of the four lethal DVE attacks in 2020. Also, in 2020, we saw the first lethal attack committed by an anarchist violent extremist in over 20 years. These anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists have specifically targeted law enforcement and the military as well as institutions or members of the U.S. government.”
This occurred in an atmosphere in which an armed man tried to breach the FBI office in Cincinnati after Trump claimed the FBI “attacked” him and eventually shot at officers who fired back and that man is deceased. Additionally, CNN reported Saturday “armed Trump supporters gathered outside the Phoenix FBI office after what they call the ‘unlawful’ search of Mar-a-Lago.”
As if we weren’t aware of the dangers facing our country after the domestic terrorist attack on January 6th, 2021 that was a political act of terrorism meant to keep Donald Trump in an office he had decidedly lost, the DHS then warned us that threats of political violence were on the rise.
All it takes is a few complaints and unfounded, presented without evidence, jacked-up rhetoric from Trump and his Republican Party champions and enablers and co-conspirators to rile his cult up into action against law enforcement. We saw the deadly consequences of the power of Trump’s false claims on January 6th.
Violent political rhetoric and dehumanization of the “other” is part of the autocratization of a democracy, and it has very real consequences. So even if the Sunday morning man wasn’t politically motivated, this atmosphere is toxic for everyone. It targets troubled and vulnerable people in an effort to motivate them to become militia to take out democracy, and it terrifies and intimidates peaceful citizens.
It is the responsibility of our leaders to be judicious and careful with their rhetoric, and too many of them are being the exact opposite right now, referencing the search on Mar-a-Lago as being like “Nazis” and suggesting law enforcement who “could do this to Trump can do it anyone.”
The reality is that Trump appears to have violated many laws without being targeted by law enforcement, and if anyone else had allegedly stolen top secret classified documents and lied about having returned them all in response to a subpoena, they should expect a response from law enforcement tasked with securing our country. The suggestion that law enforcement came for Trump over nothing is not only incorrect, but a grotesque take on a system that gave the elite, wealthy, lawyered-up and litigious former president every possible out before the search.
“Words matter,”historian Kristin DuMez reminds us all this morning. “Dehumanizing rhetoric precedes acts of political violence. Promoting false claims like the ‘stolen election’ has very real consequences.”
While Republican leaders spread false information and fear on TV in a pathetic and unpatriotic attempt to defend Donald Trump after he took material that put us in grave danger, the rest of us are dealing with the fallout. We are living through the turmoil of unprecedented attacks on the grand experiment of the United States.
The best thing we can do for one another and for our country is to try very hard to not further division and hate, while not enabling or tolerating conspiracies and falsehoods. Stay safe.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.