John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


I Could Have Been Shot But the Capitol Police Intervened

Posted on October 4, 2013
Detective John Gibson

Detective John Gibson

The House of Representatives gave a standing ovation to the Capitol police force after the crazy event yesterday afternoon.

Some quipsters on the Twitter said that they would rather get paid than get the applause.

Don’t worry.  They will get paid and they deserve the applause.

I owe my life to the Capitol Police.  John Gibson, who served on Tom DeLay’s security detail in the late 1990’s, stopped an armed crazy person with his weapon in an office right next to mine.  Unfortunately, Gibson was murdered in the process.  J.J. Chestnut, another Capitol Police officer, had been murdered seconds before.

The intruder had piles of ammunition in his pocket and had Gibson not shot him, there would have been a lot of dead Congressional staffers, including possibly me.

When you are a staff member, you gain an appreciation for the Capitol police, although at times, their presence can be a stark reminder that at any time, something bad can happen.

That can add to the stress of working in the Capitol.

Most Congressional leadership has a security detail, and some folks might think that it can be a waste of money.

My first boss on the Hill, House Minority Leader Bob Michel, didn’t have a detail, although he did have a driver.   Michel, who lives on the Hill, was mugged at gun point in the mid-1980’s in his alley.   He could have used some help from security back then, but then again, a lot of folks living on the Hill in the mid-1980’s could have used some extra police protection.

The reason high profile Congressional leaders get security details is pretty simple:  There are a lot crazy people out there, and also some evil people who would be more than happy to take a shot at a famous Senator.

And as we found out yesterday, crazy people come to the Capitol all of the time, and sometimes they do more than drive their cars into security barriers.

I remember distinctly when a Capitol cop came into my office on September 11, 2001.  “Get out of the building.  A plane is coming.”  That’s pretty much all I had to hear.

The Speaker’s security detail literally picked him up and whisked him away from the building on that terrible day.  It wasn’t easy to pick up Denny Hastert back then (it’s a lot easier to pick him up now, as he has taken seriously the doctor’s order to get in shape), but the Capitol cops did.

They removed him from a dangerous situation because he was third in line (after the Vice President), and we had no idea how many terrorist were roaming around the city.

The Capitol Police that guard the nation’s most beloved building have a multi-faceted job.  They have to make sure that the structure and its occupants are protected.  They serve on the front-lines of a continuing war on terror, so they have to keep their eyes open.  They have to help hapless tourists with directions, and they try to do that with a smile.  They have to make sure they know who the Members and important staff are, because if they piss them off, it causes problems with higher-ups.

The Capitol Police force is a highly-trained and very effective.  That wasn’t always the case, but as threats to Capitol became more acute and more often, considerable resources have been spent to make these guys really good.

And they are really good.  And very deserving of the standing ovation that the Congressmen gave them yesterday.

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