A U.S. Capitol Police car drives past the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2021.
Al Drago | Reuters
The U.S. Capitol Police’s acting chief called Thursday for permanent fencing around the U.S. Capitol complex, citing the Jan. 6 riot by a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
The call for “vast improvements” of Capitol security came a day after a West Virginia man was arrested when his car parked close to the complex’s temporary barrier was found to contain a handgun and ammunition, as well as a list of members of Congress.
Acting Capitol Chief Yogananda Pittman noted that a 2006 security assessment of the Capitol “specifically recommended the installation of a permanent perimeter fence.”
“In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol,” Pittman said.
She noted that after becoming acting chief two days after the riot, she had directed staff to conduct a physical security assessment of the entire Capitol complex, which is being done in addition to an internal police watchdog’s review of the events of Jan. 6, along with a third-party review of the complex’s security systems.
“In the end, we all have the same goal — to prevent what occurred on January 6 from ever happening again,” Pittman said.
Five people died from the riot, including a Capitol police officer.
Two other Capitol cops killed themselves since that day, and up to 140 other officers were injured as they battled Trump supporters who invaded the halls of Congress, according to the Capitol police union.
Temporary fencing was put up on the heels of the violence, which was motivated by anger over the scheduled confirmation that day of President Joe Biden’s election win by Congress.
Shortly before the riot Trump, his sons, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other key backers repeated false claims that Biden had won the election by ballot fraud, and urged supporters to help overturn Biden’s victory.
A permanent fence would drastically change the traditional atmosphere around the Capitol, whose grounds and buildings as a rule have been open to the public.
On Wednesday afternoon, Washington police arrested a 71-year-old West Virginia man, Dennis Warren Westover, who had parked his car on the road near the fence on the southwest side of the Capitol and began “shouting at the [National] Guardsmen that were inside the fence line,” authorities said.
Westover, who lives in South Charleston, later told police, “I wanted to see the fence that was around ‘my Capitol,'” according to court records.
Westover’s car was found to contain a Sig Sauer semi-automatic P365 handgun with 10 rounds of ammunition loaded in the magazine, and a separate 9mm 10-round magazine in the car’s center console, according to court documents.
Westover was charged with carrying an unregistered firearm and unregistered ammunition.
He told police that he was “concerned about the honesty and integrity of the election,” according to a criminal complaint.
Also found in his car was “Stop the Steal paperwork” with a list of senators and representatives in both the U.S. Congress and the West Virginia House of Delegates with contact information, according to the complaint.
“He said that the process I am engaged [in] is righteousness, justice, and truth,” according to the complaint.