Inside the Capitol, two arrested in apparent suicide bomber hoax

March 07, 2003|By Julie Hirschfeld Davis | Julie Hirschfeld Davis,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - A man and a woman who had strapped various objects to their bodies and appeared to be posing as suicide bombers were arrested yesterday in the Capitol and charged with transporting an explosive device, police said.

Police noticed the two chanting and dancing on the first floor of the Capitol, surrounded by a crowd of children, some of whom were photographing the spectacle, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said.

Attached to their bodies were objects, including duct tape wrapped in the shape of hockey pucks, vials of an undetermined clear liquid, and globs of clay wrapped in tape that resembled plastic explosives, Gainer said. Preliminary tests on the items found that none was hazardous, authorities said.

But due to the hoax, the two were charged with interstate transport of an explosive device, a felony that carries penalties of up to 10 years in prison, a fine, or both, said Jessica Gissubel, a Capitol Police spokeswoman.

"It's dangerous stuff in dangerous times, and we're going to have to take that seriously," Gainer said. "It's the wrong time in America to be joking about this stuff."

Capitol police officers and FBI authorities cordoned off an area near the Rotunda and one room below it for about an hour. But they did not evacuate the Capitol because the officers determined that there was no danger, Gainer said.

Police would not release the suspects' names last night but will today, Gissubel said.

Gainer described the two as a 22-year-old woman with a Michigan driver's license, and a 33-year-old man with an Iowa driver's license.

Capitol police personnel recognized the woman and man as people they had seen in the Capitol more than once before.

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