WASHINGTON – Police on Monday tackled and dragged away a man with two suitcases who stationed himself in front of the west side of the Capitol and asked to see the president.
The man refused to say anything else to an officer who tried to talk with him, authorities said.
"He was not very responsive," said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer (search). "The officer felt it was a possible suicide bomber."
The man was tackled by a SWAT team (search) and charged with disobeying a police officer. A three-hour investigation of the suitcases, including blasting them with a water cannon, revealed nothing threatening, Gainer said.
He refused to identify the man involved other than to say he was 33 years old, from China and carrying no identification.
The midday incident — which occurred at the peak of the cherry blossoms in one of Washington's busiest tourist seasons — led police to evacuate the West Lawn (search) and briefly bar tourists from the Capitol.
An officer first saw the man standing near a fountain with a suitcase on either side of him, staring silently at the building around 12:40 p.m., Gainer said.
"He only would say at first that he wanted to speak to the president," the chief said.
Four officers crept up one of the walled pathways behind him. The man briefly turned and saw them as they crouched behind a wall. After he turned back to the building, they came over the wall. Two tackled him and dragged him away. A medic tended to what Gainer said were superficial injuries the man suffered when he was knocked down.
"He said that if we wanted to know what was in the suitcase, we would have to open it ourselves," Gainer said.