Sun, September 26, 2021

international

Man claiming to have bomb near U.S. Capitol is in custody after standoff, police say


WASHINGTON - For the third time in nine months, Washington was brought to a standstill as the seat of the U.S. government came under the threat of violence Thursday, this time from a man who parked a truck near the Capitol, demanded to speak with President Joe Biden about a range of grievances and threatened to destroy two blocks of the nations capital with an explosive device.

1

View

Congressional office buildings and nearby homes were evacuated as authorities negotiated with the man, identified by law enforcement as Floyd Ray Roseberry, of North Carolina. Roseberry surrendered to authorities after about five hours and will face criminal charges, U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said.

Before he was taken into custody, he delivered a tirade over a Facebook live video - watched by tens of thousands of people - in which he assailed Biden and other Democrats, called for a revolt against the U.S. government and claimed there were other "patriots" waiting in vehicles elsewhere in D.C.

Law enforcement officials said Thursday afternoon there were no indications Roseberry was acting with accomplices, and they couldn't say yet whether he actually had explosives in his vehicle. In his video, Roseberry claimed his explosive device was sound-activated and would go off if his truck windows were broken.

"The revolution is on, it's here, it's today," he said in his live stream. "America needs a voice. I'll give it to them."

Roseberry voiced disgust with Biden's Afghanistan policy and called on Democratic senators to step down, saying they were "killing America." He demanded to speak with the president.

By about 4 p.m., D.C. police said the bomb threat had been cleared, lifting road closures and allowing residents to return to their homes.

Congress is not in session this week. But many legislative aides and other government employees were working, and the threat of violence and rushed evacuation evoked memories of the violent storming of the Capitol just over eight months ago by a mob seeking to overturn the electoral defeat of former President Donald Trump.

In the aftermath of that riot, the seat of the U.S. government became in essence a quasi-militarized zone, with barriers erected around the Capitol to protect against further attacks. In April, a Capitol police officer was killed when a man rammed his car into a barricade outside the building. The fortifications were removed just last month.

"I've been on the Hill for six years last month," Jordan Wilson, the director of operations and emergency coordinator in Virginia Republican Rep. Rob Wittman's office, said Thursday. "And I can't tell you how many people have left in the last six, eight, nine months, in both parties, just because these things are hard to go through. And it does beg the question, is it worth it?"

With each security alert, it's Wilson's job to make sure the staff is safe and accounted for, to lock the doors and identify the nearest evacuation route if that becomes necessary. And with each security alert it grows more emotionally draining, Wilson said. His mom reached out to him while watching the situation unfold on the news, just as she did after Jan. 6.

"And again today she asked, why are you still working here?" he said. "That's a hard question to answer."

On Thursday, about 50 employees of National Capital Bank, who had been evacuated from their building, gathered in Seward Square around 11:30 a.m.

Chris Reddick, the bank's vice president of residential lending, said it was the third time he had been evacuated from the building this year since Jan. 1. As he stood in the shade under a tree, wearing a green plaid face mask, traffic from multiple road closures sat snarled near him.

"It's upsetting, and it scares my wife," Reddick said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and D.C. police assisted Capitol Police with the incident. Metro trains on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines bypassed the Capitol South station.

Authorities had disclosed little information about Roseberry on Thursday afternoon.

Roseberry spoke with his son and his son's fiancé on Wednesday and did not mention his plans to head to the U.S. Capitol and threaten to detonate a bomb, said Courtney Foster, who said she is engaged to Roseberry's son and considers Roseberry a father.

Roseberry often talked about politics with his family, Foster said, sharing his dislike for Biden's policies, support for former Trump and skepticism about vaccines.

"We didn't know that he was going to do any of this. We didn't know anything" Foster, 20, of Grover, N.C., said in a telephone interview. "He is just a good old farmin' country man that has just kind of had enough, I guess, and you know, kind of reached his breaking point."

In a telephone interview, his ex-wife, Crystal Roseberry, said their 10-year marriage - which ended about a decade ago - had been stormy because of his volatile temper. But she was still shocked when she saw her former husband's face on social media Thursday.

Her phone had been ringing all day, she said, as friends and family expressed similar disbelief.

"He's never done nothing like this before," she said.

Two North Carolina State Highway Patrol cars were blocking the road to an address associated with Roseberry in the Grover area on Thursday afternoon. State Trooper Russell Corry said they had been directed to shut down the road while officials cleared the residence.

"We're just using precaution because he said he had an explosive device," Corry said.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremism and terrorist groups, said Roseberry's social media was full of pro-Trump material, although Roseberry said in his live stream Thursday not to be motivated by political partisanship.

"I'm here for a reason, Joe Biden. I'm here for the American people. And if you want to take me out, take me out. But when the patriots come, your a-- is in trouble," Roseberry says in the video. "So if you blow my truck up man, it's on you, Joe. I'm ready to die for the cause."

He said he had a wife, whom he had told he was going fishing through Sunday, as well as two children and a grandchild. At one point, he showed piles of coins in the back of the truck and said he threw $3,000 in cash onto a sidewalk.

Members of Congress - many of them away in their home districts - expressed a mix of concern and incredulity at yet another threat to their place of business.

"Today, once again, the Capitol Police, FBI and other law enforcement dealt with a potential threat to the Capitol Hill community," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. "The immense gratitude of the Congress is with all law enforcement officers who today and all days sacrifice to keep the Capitol Complex and those within it safe."

"I have checked in with my DC-based staff and they are all safely away from the Capitol Complex," Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., wrote on Twitter. "I thank Capitol police and first responders for their response and pray everyone remains safe."

Fear and sadness - but not necessarily surprise - were also voiced by those who found themselves near the Capitol as the standoff unfolded.

Victoria Cowens and Courtney Mahugu had recently moved to the District for their freshman year at Howard University. They were trying to visit the Supreme Court when the bomb threat came through.

"It's disappointing, as a country," Cowens, of Rochester, N.Y., said.

"The fence was just lowered a couple months ago and it felt like progress," said Mahugu, of Kansas. "It makes you fearful to see all these cop cars."

In the chaos, they never made it to the Supreme Court.

Around 3 p.m., tourists and onlookers continued to enjoy the sites near the Capitol. One couple, pulling a purple suitcase, said they'd just arrived from Atlanta and hadn't heard of the bomb threat. Neither did a pair of women smoking cigarettes near a small reflecting pool.

Police yelled at a runner in black athletic shorts and yellow sneakers, oblivious to the afternoon's events as he jogged down First Street NW toward a closed-off area, ear buds in.

After Roseberry had been arrested, Rebecca Adeyanju, 35, and her husband, Ken, 40, walked with their two daughters - 5 years old and 6 months old - toward the Capitol. The family had stopped in the District on a family road trip to Texas from their home in Maine. They had just learned of the bomb scare.

They had wanted to get a photo. On a road trip from their home in Maine, the Adeyanjus had stopped in the District on their way to Texas. A woman on the street had told them of the bomb scare.

"It's all terrible, and it needs to stop," Rebecca said. "I could say so much, but really it just needs to stop."

"It's not right," said Ken Adeyanju, who held their infant daughter. "It's just insane. I don't know why this keeps happening."

Published : August 20, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Lizzie Johnson, Ellie Silverman, Antonio Olivo, Peter Jamison