A man drove into a barricade near the US Capitol in Washington DC on early Sunday morning, fired several shots into the air after his vehicle ignited, and then shot himself to death, according to police.
Officials were quick to note they had not determined a motive for the man’s actions, though they did say there was no indication he was targeting any Congress members, who were in recess at the time.
The man – identified as Richard Aaron York III, 29, of Dagsboro, Delaware – crashed his car into the barricades at East Capitol and Second streets, a press statement from the Capitol police announced.
As he exited his car, the vehicle became engulfed in flames. York proceeded to fire a gun multiple times in the air, prompting police officers to approach him.
York shot himself as officers approached, according to Capitol police. No one else was hurt.
“At this time, it does not appear the man was targeting any members of Congress, who are on recess, and it does not appear officers fired their weapons,” the police said.
Investigators on Sunday were looking into York’s background and didn’t immediately disclose any preliminary findings.
Sunday’s events for some brought to mind the April 2021 death of Capitol police officer Billy Evans, who was killed when a Virginia man drove his car into a facility barricade.
Furthermore, in 2013, Capitol police shot and killed a Connecticut woman near a facility checkpoint after she smashed her car into a White House barricade and fled down Pennsylvania.
The drivers in each of those cases had mental illness, Politico reported in its Sunday newsletter.
Sunday’s case also unfolded amid high political tensions in the nation’s capital and beyond after the FBI searched former president Donald Trump’s home in Florida on 8 August.
Trump is under investigation for potential violation of the Espionage Act as well as obstruction of justice over his alleged mishandling of classified documents. The search outraged conservative commentators and politicians who still support the ex-president, seeking to portray the episode as unprecedented and unduly politicized, despite the judicially approved search warrant at the heart of the case.
Days after the raid, an armed man enraged by the FBI’s search of Trump’s home tried to break into a bureau field office in Ohio. That led to a six-hour armed standoff that left the lone gunman shot to death.
Officials have stopped well short of linking Sunday’s death to any political events in the news. But Washington’s halls of power sometimes become focal points for people distressed over national politics.
For example, in April, an American climate activist died after setting himself on fire outside the US supreme court building. Those close to him said he was attempting to call attention to the global impact of climate change at a time that the supreme court’s docket had a number of environmental cases on it.