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Tri-State residents want Capitol kept open

July 26, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Several Tri-State area residents said Saturday the public shouldn't be barred from the U.S. Capitol following Friday's shooting in which two police officers were fatally wounded and a tourist was injured.

"I don't think the public should be kept out. It's to be the public's house," said Bette Shifler, 36, of Hagerstown.

Larry Hause, 55, of Greencastle, Pa., said, "If you have to lock everything down, then you're basically living in a prison." He said security should be posted around the perimeter of the Capitol rather than waiting until people get inside to check them.

Nancy Bull, of Chambersburg, Pa., said the tourist wouldn't have been hurt if there had been security outside the Capitol.

Two Capitol Police officers died Friday after a gunman entered the Capitol, walking around a metal detector just inside the entrance. The wounded tourist was released from George Washington University Hospital on Saturday after treatment.

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Russell E. Weston Jr., 41, of Rimini, Mont., was charged with two counts of murdering a federal officer. Weston was listed in critical condition, hospitalized under heavy guard.

The Capitol was reopened to the public Saturday morning.

Joy Twigg, 27, of Martinsburg, W.Va., said the public should be allowed in the Capitol since it is part of America's history. Twigg said she couldn't see what could be done to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Martinsburg resident Widman Warren, 30, said the public shouldn't be kept out of the Capitol. People would wonder what was going on behind the closed doors, he said. Not all people trust the media to accurately report on government, he said.

Beulah Overcash, 74, of Chambersburg, agreed that citizens should still be allowed to visit the Capitol. "As long as they have more security, I would think it would be alright," she said.

"Things like that are happening every day. It seems like no matter how much security they have, these things still happen," Overcash said.

Residents interviewed Saturday were split over whether more security would prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

"It's a terrible thing that happened," said Nancy Barnes, 59, of Hagerstown. "What can you do? There's not a whole lot you can do. It's guarded with police."

Barnes, whose husband and son hunt, said she does not advocate gun control. "It's called freedom," she said.

"There are no answers to everything. Maybe they could have checked him out a little closer," Barnes said.

Sharon Dinterman, 61, of Chambersburg, said, "They're already about as security-tight as it can get without not letting the public in there. It's our Capitol."

Terry Henson, 49, who works at a local prison, said, "I think security should be set outside the building, not inside the building."

Henson, of Hagerstown, said Capitol Police should be required to wear bulletproof vests.

Capitol Police have not said whether the slain officers were wearing bulletproof vests.

Mary Perry, of Martinsburg, said the officers were doing their duty and prevented what could have been a far worse catastrophe.

Perry said she's been by the Capitol and would like the chance to visit it.

"It's quite an experience for the kids. It'd be nice for others to be able to take schoolkids to go," said Perry, an elementary school teacher.

Jo Ann Mayon, 46, of the Carlisle, Pa., area, said she was surprised there weren't more police in the area, especially with Washington, D.C.'s crime rate. She suggested military police help Capitol Police guard the building.

Mayon said access to the Capitol should be more limited, but the public should still be allowed inside. She sarcastically suggested everyone be given a bulletproof vest.

Kathleen McLaughlin, 51, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., said the shooting will probably affect tourism at the Capitol.

Dawn Wolford, 40, of Falling Waters, W.Va., said the Capitol Police did a good job getting to the gunman as fast as possible, although they paid a big price.

She suggested a second set of metal detectors be placed outside the Capitol to help prevent a gunman from entering the building, yet continuing to allow the public inside.

"I feel it's my right to go in there to visit, too. You're always going to come up against the wacko, no matter what," Wolford said.

Wolford said two of her four children have visited the Capitol and she'd like the chance for her two youngest - Capri, 7, and Cody, 3 - to see the inside.

Chad Smith, 18, of Hedgesville, W.Va., was the only person interviewed on Saturday who felt the public should be barred from the Capitol unless they have business there.

Smith said he "totally" disagreed with the argument that taxpayers have a right to see government in action and should be allowed in the Capitol.

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