Sensitivities high amid heightened security following deadly January 6 Capitol attack by Trump supporters.
The US Capitol Police officer who died on Friday after a motorist rammed a car into the police and brandished a knife will lie in honour in the Capitol Rotunda next week, congressional leaders said on Tuesday.
William Evans, an 18-year veteran of the Capitol Police force and father of two children, died in hospital after he was struck by the vehicle, the district’s Metropolitan Police Department said. A second police officer who was hit by the car was also injured.
“It is our hope that this tribute will be a comfort to the family of Officer Evans, particularly his children Logan and Abigail, as will the knowledge that so many Americans mourn with and pray for them at this sad time,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
“In giving his life to protect our Capitol and our Country, Officer Evans became a martyr for our democracy. On behalf of the entire Congress, we are profoundly grateful,” Schumer and Pelosi said.
Congress joins all Americans in sadness and appreciation for the service and heroic sacrifice of Officer Billy Evans
He gave his life to protect our Capitol and we are forever in his debt@SpeakerPelosi and I are announcing that he will lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 6, 2021
The ceremonial arrival will take place on the morning of April 13, with a congressional tribute and viewing period to follow.
Lying in honour – the public viewing of a person’s casket – is one of the highest possible honours Congress has for a civilian. Only five other people have received the distinction since the honour was created in 1998.
Three were Capitol Police officers who died in attacks on the Capitol, including Brian Sicknick, the officer who died from injuries suffered on January 6, when hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the institution.
Civil Rights leader Rosa Parks and Reverend Billy Graham are the other two who have lain in honour.
Police released a photo on Monday of the wood-handled knife brandished by 25-year-old Noah Green, who was fatally shot after crashing into the two officers and charging at another just outside the north entrance of the US Capitol on Friday.
In the chaotic moments after the attack, law enforcement officials initially believed the suspect, who was seen on surveillance video lunging at the officers with a knife, may have stabbed Evans, but that was not the case. Rumours also had swirled around fears that Evans may have been struck by friendly fire when police started shooting at the suspect.
Video of the Friday afternoon attack shows the driver emerging from the crashed car with a knife in his hand and advancing towards the officers, Capitol Police acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said.
Investigators are increasingly focused on Green’s mental health as they work to identify any motive for the attack, a US official briefed on the investigation told the Associated Press. Investigators have learned the suspect had been suffering from delusions, paranoia and suicidal thoughts, according to the official, who was not authorised to speak publicly about an ongoing matter and spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
In online posts since removed, Green described being under government thought control and said he was being watched. He described himself as a follower of the Nation of Islam and its longtime leader, Louis Farrakhan, and spoke of going through a difficult time when he leaned on his faith. Some of the messages were captured by the group SITE, which tracks online activity.