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Capitol Police Pay Tribute to First Line-of-Duty Death

Vivian Eney Cross, left, is escorted by then-Capitol Police Chief Philip Morse during a 2009 ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Vivian Eney Cross, left, is escorted by then-Capitol Police Chief Philip Morse during a 2009 ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Thirty years ago Sunday, tragedy struck the Capitol Police.  

Sgt. Christopher Sherman Eney, 37, was fatally shot in the lower back at the conclusion of a training exercise designed to help the officers prepare for hostage situations.  

Capitol Police had been performing the drill with blanks loaded into the weapons, Roll Call reported at the time, but the officers had reloaded with live ammunition at the end of the exercise.  

John A. Gott — a 32-year-old officer who eventually became a sergeant and leader in the officers’ association — had his weapon accidentally discharge. Eney, a 12-year veteran of the department, was hit in the lower back. He was immediately rushed to the Washington Hospital Center’s Medstar Unit, where he died of massive abdominal injuries.  

Eney was the first Capitol Police officer killed in the line of duty since the force began in 1801. He was posthumously awarded the department’s Blue Badge Medal in recognition of his courage, dedication and sacrifice. Police headquarters on D Street Northeast bear his name (and the names of two other officers killed in a tragic Capitol shooting).  

Retired Capitol Police Sgt. Jack DeWolfe memorialized Eney, his close friend, in a letter shared with CQ Roll Call. The full text is below.

Chris served in the United States Army as a medic with the Green Berets. I had the honor to work with Chris as a member of the CERT [Containment and Emergency Response Team] and in the House Plainclothes Division. Chris was one of the best supervisors on the department; he worked tirelessly and always strived to get the best out of his team members each day. Chris led by example and would never ask a team member to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. He would always stand post for anyone who needed a break, and during the late night sessions it was greatly appreciated.

He was in remarkable shape, during his breaks he would even do pull-ups on the bar he installed in his office. Even during CERT training exercises, which often times involved running with telephone poles, he would do pull-ups and push-ups while the rest of the group was trying to recover. Chris would love to ask questions and most of the time he would ask the question that someone else wanted to know but did not want to ask. While there were a few occasions we wished he would not speak up because we wanted to get out of class, we were grateful later that he asked. I learned so much from him, and will be eternally grateful for his guidance and leadership.

Chris is survived by his wife Vivian and two daughters, Shannen and Heather. At Chris’s viewing, after they had just lost a husband and dad, their main concern was for his coworkers and how we were dealing with the tragic loss. Instead of going to comfort the family at the viewing, they brought such comfort to us. Shannen is married to Neno Sabourjian and they have five children, a set of triplets, and a set of twins. Heather is married to Chris Parker and they have three children, a set of twin girls and a single girl. I would also like to acknowledge Gary Cross, who is Vivian’s husband. He has always been supportive and helped to raise a remarkable family. Gary is also a survivor—a Purple Heart recipient from Vietnam.

Vivian previously worked as an advocate for police survivors and it is her quote on the Law Enforcement Memorial that reads “It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it’s how they lived”.

I know the Capitol Police will keep Chris’s memory alive forever because they never forget their fallen heroes.

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