WASHINGTON – A Tennessee man shot while pointing a spring-loaded BB gun at officers at a U.S. Capitol Visitor Center security checkpoint a year ago was sentenced to 14 months total Monday for that incident and another lesser offense when he disrupted the House a few months earlier.
A federal judge in Washington sentenced Larry Russell Dawson, 67, of Antioch, Tenn., to 11 months in prison for the March 28 BB gun incident that led to brief lockdowns at the White House and across the Capitol complex. Dawson also received a three-month sentence for failing to appear in court for an Oct. 22, 2015, arrest in which he shouted Bible verses from the public viewing gallery at the House.
Dawson claimed to be a “prophet of God” for a $15-an-hour national minimum wage and court filings show he had suffered a history of mental illness and has been treated with antipsychotic medications in custody.
“I deeply regret that others were impacted by my actions,” at the visitor center, Dawson told U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg Monday, apologizing to a woman who police said sustained a minor shrapnel injury, dozens of bystanders who suffered psychological or emotional harm and to U.S. Capitol Police.
“I thank the Lord for sparing my life and keeping anyone else from being hurt,” said Dawson dressed in an orange jail uniform in court and looking much thinner than in previously released photographs.
Boasberg said he agreed with Assistant U.S. Attorney David Mudd that “what happened here was very serious” and “terrifying” for many families and children preparing to tour the Capitol, only to have to duck for cover during a 10- to 15-second standoff between Dawson and police.
Boasberg’s sentence fell between the prosecutors’ request for 20 months and an 11-month penalty sought by federal defender A.J. Kramer of the District.
Imposing his sentence, Boasberg cited Dawson’s changed behavior under treatment, work and U.S. Army history and family support.
Dawson was known to Capitol Police after a string of security encounters in 2015, including one in which he told police he wanted to meet then-Speaker of the House John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, regarding raising the minimum wage and that he had communicated with God in prayer and scripture.
In December 2015, Dawson told a D.C. Superior Court judge in a letter that he would not return to court in relation to that arrest writing, “No longer will I let myself be governed by flesh and blood, but only by the Divine Love of God!!!!”
At about 2:30 p.m. March 28, Dawson triggered reports across the Capitol of an active shooter after setting off a metal detector at the visitor center. Dawson pulled out what appeared to be a semiautomatic handgun, and pointed it at Capitol Police officers Quincy Brisco and Jerry Smith.
Backing away, Brisco drew his handgun and turned it on Dawson, who ignored orders to drop his weapon, court records show, and Smith eventually shot Dawson in the chest and thigh.
Dawson was hospitalized for several weeks and pleaded guilty Dec. 13 to a federal charge of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers or employees with a dangerous weapon and to failure to appear in court.
A former funeral home owner who also worked as a pastor, car salesman and school bus driver, Dawson will live with relatives near Nashville, family members wrote to the judge. His attorney said Dawson was diagnosed as most likely schizophrenic with multiple auditory and visual hallucinations but a low risk to harm others.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Spencer S. Hsu