US Capitol Police on Monday shot and injured a 66-year-old man with a long history of mental illness, after he brandished a realistic-looking BB gun at officers, court documents show.
The man, Larry R. Dawson of Tennessee, is still in the hospital, according to the US Attorney's Office, after he was shot twice by officers in the US Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) on Monday. Dawson, who leads a small church in Tennessee, has a history of skirmishes with the Capitol Police and was fired from his previous job driving a school bus after he wrote inappropriate letters to a 15-year-old girl.
An arrest warrant released on Thursday suggests that Dawson could be charged with assaulting a federal law enforcement officer with a dangerous weapon and assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees with a dangerous weapon. A hearing on the matter will take place after he is released from the hospital.
Special Agent Kathryn Rivera of the US Capitol Police conducted an investigation into the incident that led to a lockdown of the US Capitol and its office buildings on Monday and sent tourists running from the building.
Dawson arrived at the CVC, the only public entrance to the building, at approximately 2:37pm on Monday, Rivera wrote in the arrest warrant issued Thursday. As Dawson stepped through one of the facility's metal detectors, Officer Quincy Brisco noticed a metal object appearing on his right hip through the scanner, according to the report. Brisco then used a hand-held metal detector to check Dawson's waist, as is standard-practice in the Capitol.
Dawson then allegedly pulled what officers say appeared to be a gun from his waistband. He grabbed the wand metal detector from Officer Brisco and threw it to the ground, according to the report. Tourists grabbed children and huddled behind other officers and metal detector equipment, Rivera wrote, arguing that the BB gun appeared to pose a real threat.
Dawson then allegedly pointed his weapon at Brisco, who drew his own handgun, and backed further into the CVC toward the main CVC building and the Capitol. Several officers drew their weapons and shouted at Brisco to drop his gun.
Dawson began walking toward Brisco, still aiming his gun at the officer and ignored several calls to drop his weapon, the report alleges. A second officer, Jerry Smith, then shot Dawson. But Dawson continued to walk toward Brisco with his gun aimed at the officer.
"By this time, Dawson had been pointing the gun at Officer Brisco for approximately [10 to 11 seconds]," Rivera wrote in the arrest warrant report. "Officer Smith shot Dawson again... Moments later, Dawson slumped onto the floor."
Rivera said that her description of the incident is based on her own observations as well as interviews with other officers and witnesses and security footage.
Capitol Hill police have not released the security footage to the public.
Dawson was later taken to the hospital and still has not been released, according to the US Attorney's Office. A female bystander, aged 35-45 years old, was also injured during the exchange on Monday, Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa told reporters at the time. The US Attorney's Office said Friday that the woman was released from the hospital that day, but referred additional questions about the woman to the Capitol Police.
It's still unclear how the woman's injuries were sustained. The United States Capitol Police did not immediately respond for a request for comment on Friday on how the woman was injured. The USCP has not responded to multiple requests from VICE News for copies of the police report related to the Dawson shooting.
The arrest warrant states that Dawson was carrying a Daisy spring-loaded BB gun. "The gun resembled in color, shape, weight and other outward appearances a semi-automatic handgun," Rivera wrote.
"Under federal law, an imitation gun, when used in circumstances such as those described herein qualifies as a dangerous weapon," Rivera wrote in the arrest warrant. Rivera cited case law in which federal courts have ruled that toy guns and even unloaded guns fill the requirements for a dangerous weapon because they incite fear and a potentially deadly response from police, regardless of how the weapons could actually be used.
Dawson has a long history of mental illness and brushes with law enforcement, including the US Capitol Police. It's unclear if officers immediately recognized Dawson on Monday, but the Tennessee man has been barred from going anywhere near the Capitol campus since October of last year when he interrupted a meeting of the US House of Representatives, shouting "I'm a Prophet of God!" from the gallery.
Dawson then fled police, who tried to remove him from the building, and was arrested. He told officers at the time that he was in the Capitol to speak with then-House Speaker John Boehner about raising the minimum wage.
Dawson failed to appear in court in December of 2015 for a hearing related to the matter. He wrote to the court at the time announcing that he refused to appear because "I am not under the Law!" — calling himself "a minister and True Prophet of God."
"Romans 6:14 For sin shall not dominion over you. For you are Not under the law, but under Grace!!! It is a serious mistake to press law-observance in the face of repeated revelations that the believer Of this age is not under law as his rule of life," Dawson wrote. "Therefore, I will not comply with the court order, nor will I surrender myself unto your office. No longer will I let myself be governed by flesh and blood, but only by the Divine Love of God!!!!"
Dawson was previously arrested in Tennessee in 2002, for sending inappropriate and sexual letters to a 15-year-old girl who rode on the school bus he drove, according to local reports in Tennessee. In the letters, Dawson wrote that God had told him that she was to be his wife and give birth to his children. They "were to be the Mary and Joseph of the next millennium and the new Bible times," Fox Nashville reported.
Dawson was fired from the school district, but the charges were dropped when he promised to cease contact with the girl. But he wrote additional letters to her and Dawson was again arrested. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was admitted to a mental health facility in 2005, according to the Nashville ABC affiliate.
Dawson is now the pastor at a small church in Antioch, Tennessee. According to the church's website, he visited Washington, DC, three times last year to lobby members of Congress to raise the minimum wage. The site requests donations to help with that mission, which he calls "The Movement".
Dawson will face a new hearing with the US District Court for the District of Columbia relating to the incident at the Capitol on Monday, when he is released from the hospital.
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