AUSTIN, Texas – A man fired several shots into the air Thursday while standing on the Texas Capitol's south steps before throwing down his handgun as state troopers closed in and tackled him, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
Nobody was wounded in the shooting, department spokesman Tom Vinger said. Authorities arrested Fausto Cardenas, 24, who faces felony charges of deadly conduct and was being held in the Travis County Jail, the department said.
The shots rang out just after noon, and officers with rifles quickly swarmed the scene. More than a half dozen Department of Public Safety cars quickly appeared, and troopers quickly surrounded the building.
"I thought he was shooting at the birds. I ran," said Veronica Briseno, a tourist from Mexico who said she saw the shooter fire his weapon into the air.
Jill Magid, an artist from New York City, said she was just inside the front doors of the Capitol when the shots were fired. She ran out the doors in time to see troopers holding a man down on the ground.
"They were all over him," Magid said. "I could hear him saying 'my hands are up."'
Many lawmakers were away from Austin because the legislature was not in session, and Gov. Rick Perry was not in the building at the time, his office said. Perry commended the troopers who responded to the shooting.
"Thanks to their efforts no one was injured and the shooter was apprehended immediately and taken in to custody," Perry said in a statement.
Some lawmakers were inside the Capitol including House Speaker Joe Straus, whose office said he was stuck in the building while it was on lockdown. Republican Sen. Dan Patrick said on his Twitter page that he wasn't in his office but his staff called security.
"An individual came into my Austin Senate office today acting strangely, staff called security, moments later shots fired on Capitol steps," he wrote.
Patrick's chief-of-staff, Logan Spence, described the man as a "shy, nervous guy" who raised suspicions after asking to meet with one of the senator's female aides. Spence said the suspect had apparently spotted the aide in the hallway before entering Patrick's office.
Authorities had located a car linked to the suspect on the west side of the Capitol but said late Thursday they had not yet established a motive for the shooting. Investigators were still on the scene as evening approached, though people with legitimate business at the Capitol were being allowed in.
Lorne Kozak, of Edmonton, Alberta in Canada, was visiting the Capitol grounds with his 10-year-old son Spencer when they heard gunfire. He said they were about 30 yards from the steps when the shots rang out.
"What I heard was four rifle shots," Kozak said. "There appeared to be a cluster of officers attending to someone on the steps and more officers kept pouring out of the building and of course the sirens."
They snapped a few quick pictures before walking away when police told them to leave.