United States Capitol shooting incident (1998)

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U.S. Capitol shooting incident (1998)
Chestnut gibson.jpg
Commemorative plaque located by the Document Door in the United States Capitol
Location Washington, D.C.
Date July 24, 1998
3:40 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (UTC-4)
Target United States Capitol
Attack type
Shooting
Weapon(s) .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver
Deaths 2
Non-fatal injuries
3 (including the perpetrator)
Perpetrator Russell Eugene Weston, Jr.

The United States Capitol shooting incident of 1998 was an attack on July 24, 1998 which led to the death of two United States Capitol Police officers. Detective John Gibson and Officer Jacob Chestnut were killed when Russell Eugene Weston Jr. entered the Capitol and opened fire.[1] Chestnut was killed instantly and Gibson died during surgery at George Washington University Hospital, but not before wounding Weston, who survived. Weston's exact motives are unknown, but he does suffer from a mental disorder and maintains a strong distrust of the federal government. He remains in a mental institution due to paranoid schizophrenia and has yet to be tried in court.

The shooting[edit]

On the day of shooting, Officer Chestnut and another officer were assigned to operate the X-ray machine and magnetometer at the Document Door entrance located on the East Front of the Capitol, which was open only to Members of Congress and their staff. Detective Gibson was assigned to the dignitary protection detail of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) and was in his suite of offices near this door. Weston, armed with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson six-shot revolver, entered the Document Door at 3:40 p.m. At the same time, Officer Chestnut was providing directions to a tourist and his son while his partner escorted another tourist towards the restroom.[2] Weston reportedly walked around the metal detector just inside the entrance; Chestnut requested he go back through the detector.[3] Weston suddenly produced the gun and without warning, shot Chestnut in the back of the head at point-blank range. According to witnesses, he turned down a short corridor and pushed through a door which leads to a group of offices used by senior Republican representatives including then Majority Whip Tom DeLay and Representative Dennis Hastert, future Speaker of the House and a close protégé of then Speaker Newt Gingrich.[4]

Detective Gibson, who was in plainclothes, was shot after the suspect entered DeLay's office. Despite being mortally wounded, Detective Gibson was able to return fire and wound the suspect, who was apprehended in that office.[5] A female tourist suffered minor injuries after bullets grazed her shoulder and face.[6] She was treated for her injuries and released. Also injured was USCP Officer Douglas McMillian.[7] Future Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, a heart surgeon who had been presiding on the Senate floor just before the shooting, resuscitated the gunman and accompanied him to D.C. General Hospital.[1]

After the shooting[edit]

A Capitol Police Honor Guard salutes the coffins of Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson in the Capitol Rotunda as they lie in repose.

Officers Chestnut and Gibson were the only two people killed in the attack. Following the shooting, both officers received the tribute of lying in honor in the United States Capitol rotunda. They were the first police officers, and Chestnut was the first African American, to receive the honor.[8]

In 1999, Weston was found incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness as he was a schizophrenic who stopped taking his medication.[9] A judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered that he be treated with antipsychotic medication without his consent in 2001, and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the decision.[10] In 2004, the court determined that Weston still was not competent to be tried, despite ongoing treatment, and suspended but did not dismiss the criminal charges against him. Weston was known to the United States Secret Service prior to the incident as a person who had threatened the President of the United States.[11]

Officer Jacob Chestnut, USCP

The shooting led to the creation of the United States Capitol Police Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization managed by the Capitol Police Board which provides funds for the families of Chestnut and Gibson.[12] In November 2005, the fund was expanded to include the family of Sgt. Christopher Eney, a USCP officer killed during a training accident in 1984.[13] The shooting was cited as one reason for the development of the Capitol Visitors Center. The legislation authorizing the construction of the facility was introduced by Washington, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and was entitled the Jacob Joseph Chestnut-John Michael Gibson United States Capitol Visitor Center Act of 1998.[14][15] The door where Weston entered was renamed in honor of the two officers, from the Document Door to the Chestnut-Gibson Memorial Door.[16]

On March 6, 2008, Weston filed a motion requesting a hearing on his mental status. The hearing was held on May 6 with Weston appearing via teleconference from the Federal Medical Center, Butner with his public defender Jane Pierce and two witnesses he selected, a psychologist and vocational rehabilitation specialist.[17] Federal judge Earl Britt denied Weston's request to be released from the federal facility, arguing that he failed to present enough evidence that he no longer needed to be committed. During the hearing defense psychologist Holly Rogers stated that, "sometimes there are individuals who simply do not respond to medication", implying that Weston was not ready for release. Had Weston been released from the facility, it would have made it possible for him to be taken to Washington, D.C. to stand trial for the murders of Gibson and Chestnut.[7]

The officers[edit]

Detective John Gibson, USCP

Detective John Michael Gibson (March 29, 1956 – July 24, 1998) was a United States Capitol Police officer assigned to the dignitary protection detail of Congressman Tom DeLay. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery after lying in honor with Chestnut in the Capitol rotunda. Detective Gibson had served with the agency for 18 years. He was a native of Massachusetts who married the niece of Representative Joe Moakley, Democrat of Massachusetts.[18] He had three children, a 17-year-old daughter and two boys, ages 15 and 14.[2] Growing up in New England, Det. Gibson was a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, and on August 11, 1998, his beloved team had a moment of silence in his honor prior to a game with the Kansas City Royals.

Officer Jacob Joseph Chestnut (April 28, 1940 - July 24, 1998), was the first African American to lie in honor at the Capitol. Chestnut is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His funeral included a speech by President Bill Clinton and a fly-over by military jets in a missing man formation. A United States Post Office located in Fort Washington, Maryland has been renamed in their honor.[2]

The suspect[edit]

The suspect, Russell Eugene Weston, Jr., known as Rusty, was born December 28, 1956 and grew up in Valmeyer, Illinois. Weston attended Valmeyer High School, the only high school in a town of 900 people. Shortly after graduating high school in 1974, Weston moved to Rimini, Montana, rarely returning to Valmeyer. The only attempt his high school classmates made at inviting him to a class reunion was returned with obscenities written across it.[19] Many of Weston's Montana neighbors had disliked him, and often ignored him. They considered him to be unusual, and sometimes eccentric. Weston had once thought that his neighbor was using his television satellite dish to spy on his actions and believed Navy SEALs were hiding in his cornfield.[19]

Weston's cabin next to the Lower Tenmile Creek in Montana following a search by the police

He was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic six years before the shooting and spent fifty-three days in a mental hospital after threatening a Montana resident. He was released after testing as being of no danger to himself or anyone else.[20] Eighteen months before the shooting, he moved back to Valmeyer from Montana. Once home, he was known to compulsively hack at trees which filled his back yard following the Mississippi River floods of 1993. There was so much downed timber on his family's homestead that they had to ask him to stop cutting at trees.[20] Two days prior to the Capitol shooting, at his grandmother's insistence to do something about nearby cats which were becoming a nuisance, Weston shot and killed 14 cats with a single barreled shotgun, leaving several in a bucket and burying the rest.[20]

Following the Capitol shooting, Weston was transferred to a psychiatric center at Butner Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina. In an interview with a court-appointed psychiatrist he explained that he stormed the Capitol to prevent the United States from being annihilated by disease and legions of cannibals.[21]

He has never been charged with any crime due to apparent mental instability. One contentious issue of Weston's incarceration is the issue of forced medication. Weston has thus far refused to take any medications voluntarily. His lawyers helped enable this, in order to protect him from the death penalty.[22] In May 2001, a federal judge authorized doctors to treat Weston involuntarily. A panel from a federal appeals court ruled in July 2001 that Weston could be forced to take the drugs which he was forced to do for 120 days.[23] He remains in the Butner facility indefinitely.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "2 dead, 2 hurt in U.S. Capitol shooting". CNN.com. Archived from the original on October 29, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-19. 
  2. ^ a b c "Capitol Police Officers laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery". Michael Robert Patterson. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  3. ^ "Gunman Shoots His Way Into Capitol; Two Officers Killed, Suspect Captured". Washingtonpost.com. 1999-01-30. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  4. ^ "Attack on Capitol Hill". EmergencyNet News. Archived from the original on December 8, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  5. ^ Clines, Francis X. (1998-07-25). "Capitol Hill Slayings: The Overview; Gunman Invades Capitol, Killing 2 Guards". Newyorktimes.com. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  6. ^ "Horrifying Capitol ordeal began with officer's execution". (July 26, 1998). Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The.
  7. ^ a b Yehle, Emily (2008-04-16). "Weston Competency Hearing Set". Roll Call (Washington, D.C.: Roll Call, Inc.). pp. 1, 18. 
  8. ^ "Authorizing the use of the Rotunda of the Capitol...". United States Senate. 
  9. ^ Frieden, Terry. "Weston found incompetent to stand trial for Capitol shooting". CNN.com. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  10. ^ "Capitol Shooter Russell Weston, Three Years Later". New York Press. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  11. ^ "Capitol shooting suspect was 'low-level threat' to Clinton". CNN.com. Archived from the original on September 13, 2005. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  12. ^ "U.S. Code Title 2, 1953". Cornell Law School. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  13. ^ "Members, Capitol Police Square Off in 2006 "Longest Yard" Flag Football Game". Rep. Rick Renzi (AZ-01). Archived from the original on January 5, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  14. ^ "Jacob Joseph Chestnut-John Michael Gibson United States Capitol Visitor Center Act of 1998 (Introduced in House)". United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  15. ^ "Attack Stirs Interest in Visitors Center". Washingtonpost.com. 1999-01-30. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  16. ^ "To rename the Document Door of the Capitol as the Chestnut-Gibson Memorial Door. (Introduced in Senate)". United States Senate. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  17. ^ Yehle, Emily (2008-05-07). "Weston unlikely to ever be tried". Roll Call (Washington, D.C.: Roll Call, Inc.). pp. 1, 16. 
  18. ^ Schmitt, Eric (1998-07-27). "Capitol Hill slayings: The Police; Congress to Pay Tribute to Slain Officers". Newyorktimes.com. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  19. ^ a b "Capitol Hill Slayings: The Suspect; Man Hospitalized in '96 for Ominous Letters". Newyorktimes.com. 1998-07-26. Retrieved 2007-01-19. 
  20. ^ a b c "Before the Shootings, a String of Excesses". Washingtonpost.com. 1999-01-30. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  21. ^ "Capitol Shooter's Mind-Set Detailed". Washingtonpost.com. 1999-04-23. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  22. ^ Satel, Sally (2003-03-03). "Insanity Goes Back on Trial". The New York Times. 
  23. ^ "Judge Rules Capitol Gunman Can Be Forced to Take Medicine". Newyorktimes.com. 2002-08-03. Retrieved 2007-01-19. 

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Claude Pepper
Persons who have lain in state or honor
in the United States Capitol rotunda
(John Gibson and Jacob Chestnut)

June 28, 1998
Succeeded by
Ronald Reagan