A man was arrested by Capitol Police Wednesday afternoon after landing his gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol. As expected the Capitol went immediately into lockdown and the man was detained, according to Capitol Police.
Doug Hughes, 61, from Ruskin, Fla., had been planning to land the copter on the Capitol to deliver letters to every member of Congress pushing the cause of campaign finance reform. In a YouTube video he explains that he wants do this as a peaceful protest.
“No sane person would do what I’m doing,” he said.
“The U.S. Capitol Police is investigating a gyro copter with a single occupant that has landed on the grassy area of the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The U.S. Capitol Police continues to investigate with one person detained and temporary street closures in the immediate area,” said Capitol Police Lt. Kimberly Schneider in a statement to CNN.
Capitol Police did not immediately identify the pilot or comment on his motive, but multiple sources confirmed that Hughes had taken responsibility for the stunt on a website where he said he was delivering letters to all 535 members of Congress in order to draw attention to campaign finance corruption.
“As I have informed the authorities, I have no violent inclinations or intent,” Hughes wrote on his website, thedemocracyclub.org.
“An ultralight aircraft poses no major physical threat – it may present a political threat to graft. I hope so. There’s no need to worry – I’m just delivering the mail.”
Michael McCaul, the House Homeland Security panel chairman, said the pilot landed on his own. He added that if he had landed the mini helicopter closer to the Capitol, authorities were prepared to shoot him down.
“Had it gotten any closer to the speaker’s balcony they have long guns to take it down, but it didn’t. It landed right in front,” McCaul said.
Witnesses said the craft approached the Capitol from the west, flying low over the National Mall and the Capitol reflecting pool across the street from the building. It barely cleared a row of trees and a statue of General Ulysses Grant.
John Jewell, 72, a tourist, said the craft landed hard and bounced. An officer was already there with a gun drawn. “He didn’t get out until police officers told him to get out. He had his hands up'” and was quickly led away by the police, Jewell said. “They snatched him pretty fast.”
Downtown Washington is blanketed by restrictions on air traffic that generally prohibit aircraft from flying over the White House, the Capitol, the national Mall and key buildings without special permission.