The bomb threat instigated by a supporter of former President Donald Trump outside the Library of Congress on Thursday triggered headlines across the nation, but by the end of the day for residents of the area and members of Capitol Police the event was worth little more than a roll of the eyes or exasperated sigh.
The scene that unfolded out front of the Library of Congress and Cannon House Office Building drew immediate attention from the national and local news media — dozens of reporters and assembled news cameras were present on the scene at either side of the police perimeter by noontime.
At a news conference, Capitol Police Chief J Thomas Manger said that statements made by the suspect as well as items seen in his car on a Facebook Live broadcast made by the suspect led officers to believe there may have been serious cause for concern.
“There were things that we saw in the truck, for instance a propane … gas container,” Mr Manger told reporters.
But the incident wound down in the afternoon with the suspect, identified as Floyd Ray Roseberry of Grover, North Carolina, surrendering to police officers without bloodshed. By the time happy hours were beginning in bars across the city, those in the immediate area appeared unshaken by the suspect’s stated intention of detonating explosives nearby if President Joe Biden refused his demand to speak with him.
One Capitol Police officer stationed outside of the Dirksen Senate Office Building told The Independent that the events of Thursday were a sign of an unexplained mania that he said appeared to be spreading around the US, pointing to other incidents including a massive spike in violent and unruly passengers recorded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in recent months.
“It’s not just you … between all the incidents on airplanes right now, and this stuff, we’re living in the Twilight Zone,” he said.
He went on to note derisively that the suspect had expressed grievances with Mr Biden on social media but inexplicably chose Capitol Hill as the target of his standoff with police, and did so while the House was out of session leaving the Cannon House Office Building far emptier than usual.
Floyd Ray Roseberry: Capitol bomb threat suspect identified, told his wife he was going fishing
“He was up here … demanding to talk to Joe Biden, who is like 16 blocks that way,” the officer said, laughing.
His sentiments were echoed by employees and owners of businesses just around the corner from the Capitol Hill office area.
At a tuxedo rental shop less than a block away from one of the police perimeters, owners Dorian and Tony Lipscomb told The Independent that other than traffic disruptions, their business had been unaffected by the commotion.
“I’m used to it … I’ve lived here all my life,” Dorian said.
Tony remarked that the presence of a nearby Capitol Police officer stationed across the street meant the area was typically pretty quiet, though he noted that in recent months DC’s growing number of individuals experiencing homelessness had led to a rise in people asking for money on the street and sometimes in the business.
“Most of the craziness is from panhandlers … people asking for money, so we sometimes keep the door locked,” he told The Independent.
The chief of staff for Rep Jamaal Bowman, whose aides were not in the office at the time of the bomb threat, expressed her disgust with the situation on Twitter: “We’re home safe and sound. Congressional staff don’t sign up to work in the midst of insurrections and bomb threats.”
“This isn’t normal,” she added.
We’re home safe and sound.
Congressional staff don’t sign up to work in the midst of insurrections and bomb threats.
This isn’t normal. https://t.co/iptaCJq8yf
— sarah (@SarahIddrissu) August 19, 2021
The incident is the second bizarre security situation to occur on Capitol Hill since the bloody assault on the Capitol building by supporters of the former president on 6 January. In April, a man was killed by Capitol Police officers after allegedly ramming his car into barricades put in place after the pro-Trump riot and brandished a knife at officers following the crash.
The shocking attack of 6 January still remains burned in the memories of many in the city, and four officers with the Capitol Police force who responded to the riot have died by suicide in the months since it occurred.
Barricades erected by law enforcement after the attack only came down in July, marking the end of a months-long stretch during which members of the public were not permitted on the Capitol grounds.