Australian man arrested at U.S. Capitol building

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

West Lawn next to the Capitol building was evacuated on the mistaken suspicion that the suitcases may have contained a bomb. 2004 file photo.

A 33-year old visitor to the United States, named Wen Hao Zhao from Sydney, Australia, was arrested at the Capitol building on Monday, after he was observed by police standing in a "statue-like pose" and carrying two suitcases.

When confronted by officers of the United States Capitol Police (USCP) who were called to the scene at 12:45 p.m. EST, he is reported to have been unresponsive to questioning. "He only would say at first that he wanted to speak to President Bush," according to USCP Chief Terrance W. Gainer. Some reports suggest that the man was limited or unresponsive in his use of English.

The West Lawn area next to the Capitol building and an adjacent part of 1st Street was evacuated and tourists were briefly prevented from entering the building on the possibility that the suitcases may have contained a bomb.

Authorities X-rayed the bags and examined them for over 3 hours. One bag was found to contain only clothing. The other bag, which apparently was thought to contain wiring which might belong to an explosive device, was destroyed on-site with a water cannon; after which, the bag was found to have contained only common items such as a CD player, batteries, and a watch.

Zhao was arrested at 1:45 p.m. EST without resistance on charges of disorderly conduct; other more serious charges could be filed. However, Allen Doody of U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has indicated plans to deport Zhao back to Australia within a few days without charges. "We do not plan to charge him," Doody said.

Zhao is dual-nationality Chinese-Australian, who entered the US legally on his Australian passport less than a week ago.