Capitol security review more imperative following latest deadly attack, Ryan says

"I think everything's gonna be reevaluated after today," chairman says

Capitol Police and National Guardsmen stand guard on Constitution Avenue after an attack Friday left one police officer dead and another injured at the north barricade entrance to the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Capitol Police and National Guardsmen stand guard on Constitution Avenue after an attack Friday left one police officer dead and another injured at the north barricade entrance to the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted April 2, 2021 at 6:44pm

Rep. Tim Ryan said the vehicular attack Friday that killed a Capitol Police officer and injured another will prompt further evaluation of the Capitol’s security, which has already been under intense scrutiny after the Jan. 6 attack.

Ryan is chairman of the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the Capitol Police and has shared oversight jurisdiction.

“I think everything's gonna be reevaluated after today,” Ryan told reporters at a virtual press conference Friday.

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A man rammed his car into two Capitol Police officers and a barricade on Constitution Avenue and approached officers wielding a knife just after 1 p.m. The suspect was shot by USCP and died after being transported to the hospital, police said. Officer William “Billy” Evans died from injuries at the hospital, where the other unnamed officer remains injured, police said.

[One Capitol Police officer killed, one injured when vehicle rams them at Capitol barricade]

Earlier this week Ryan was briefed on the Capitol Police inspector general's reports on the department's preparation for and response to the Jan. 6 attack. He said he plans to hold a briefing for his committee in the coming weeks.

House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren, who also saw the reports and was briefed, said the reports from Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton “provide detailed and disturbing findings and important recommendations.”

When the House returns from recess, appropriators and the House Administration panel will be convening to discuss and review the reports and evaluate the existing recommendations and new considerations after the latest attack.

The barricade that the suspect crashed into on Friday, like dozens of others around the Capitol campus, was installed after the 9/11 attacks to prevent vehicles, and potentially car bombs, from getting close to the Capitol building.

The Ohio Democrat stressed that getting Capitol security right, with a balance of openness and access to the public and enough safety for lawmakers and staff, will need to be a committed bipartisan effort and separate from the partisan rancor seen daily on Capitol Hill.

“I think it's just a time for us to elevate the conversation, to be adults about how sensitive this is, how important it is to try to get this right,” said Ryan. “It can't fall into the other political arguments that we're having. This is about the security of the nation's Capitol, that's the temple of democracy, and we've got to make sure that it is secure.”

Ryan said that he, along with House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro and the ranking member on his own subcommittee, Jaime Herrera Beutler, spoke with members of the Israeli Knesset about security for their buildings. He said there is a lot to be learned from capitals and governments around the world and how they tackle security challenges.

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He said lawmakers are also reeling from the incident, based on calls he had with colleagues through the afternoon.

“We're just been on the phone with different members of Congress and everybody really is just crushed by this,” said Ryan.

Lawmakers who were forced to run, hide and crouch in mortal fear on Jan. 6 are shaken by Friday’s attack at an entrance that is frequented by staff and lawmakers, often on foot. That common route now feels vulnerable.

“This rips the scab off and continues to provide a level of uncertainty and worry about the workplace,” said Ryan.

Ryan, who is a longtime advocate for mental health awareness and mindfulness, also addressed the morale and mental health of the Capitol Police in the wake of yet enough crisis for the department.

The department was hit hard by COVID-19, overrun and brutalized by violent rioters Jan. 6 before immediately pivoting to secure the inauguration just two weeks later. Officers have been working 12 and 16 hour shifts and coordinating with National Guard troops stationed at the Capitol.

“This is a group of men and women who have been through a significant amount of trauma, over the last few months,” Ryan said.

He highlighted the enhanced focus on mental health within the department and additional resources being provided to officers, referencing the hurt the department already endured this year with the deaths of two officers. Officer Brian Sicknick died from injuries sustained in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Officer Howard Liebengood died by suicide in the days following Jan. 6 after being on the scene of the insurrection.

Ryan didn’t have additional information on the surviving officer in Friday's vehicular attack, who remained hospitalized.

“I just tried to get that for you all and I didn't, I couldn't, get an answer. So we're waiting to hear just saying our prayers that he's doing okay,” Ryan said.

Capitol Police said the officer was stable and in "non-life threatening condition."

Ryan said USCP will be hiring almost 1,000 new officers, but that the screening and hiring takes a long time.

"After all of the trauma of Jan. 6, not being able to hug your kids or see your kids because you're working so much and you're up early and you stay late … it's been a lot of pressure," said Ryan.