Latest US Capitol attack raises concerns over security

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US lawmakers are scrambling to create a balance between US Capitol security and public accessibility in the backdrop of two pernicious attacks around the sprawling complex this year. Less than three months after a violent mob insurrection at the US Capitol, a car crashed into a security barrier on Constitution Avenue on Friday, leaving one police officer dead and another seriously injured.

Capitol Police opened fire and shot the driver dead as he jumped out of the car and lunged towards the officers with a knife. After the incident, streets around the US Capitol and congressional office buildings were shut down by the authorities with a massive police presence at the premise.

The latest incident has taken place days after the authorities reduced the outermost layer of police fencing and military presence at the Capitol. As Washington remains on edge, the incident has raised concerns about the security of the area surrounding the US Capitol. The attack has triggered a number of US officials to review and discuss tightening the security around the complex in order to protect the legislative branch.

After the January 6 mob attack exposed several security shortfalls, a task force led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré conducted a security review. The task force submitted its final draft to Congress on March 6, concluding that the US Capitol Police was ill-prepared for the mob attack. It further recommended sweeping changes to strengthen the security apparatus at the Capitol, including recruiting hundreds more police officers, installing a new fencing system and establishing a quick reaction force to protect the complex.

However, speaking to media about the development on Sunday, Lt Gen Honore indicated that large-scale permanent fencing around the Capitol building was unlikely. On March 26, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Army Major General William Walker as the new House sergeant-at-arms. Paul Irving, who held the post previously, had resigned after the insurrection.

Addressing a news conference on April 3, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said that officer William “Billy” Evans succumbed to his injuries, while the second police officer remains hospitalised. Speaker Pelosi issued a statement, noting that a swift and comprehensive investigation would be launched into the “heinous attack”. She further hailed the “heroism” of the police officers.

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