Baseball game’s military demonstration prompts brief panic as Capitol Police orders evacuation

US Capitol evacuated ‘over an abundance of caution’ as Washington Nationals hold ‘Military Appreciation Day’ event with parachute team

All-clear given after evacuation order at US Capitol

US Capitol Police ordered the evacuation of the Capitol complex in Washington DC, including the Capitol building, after issuing a warning that a nearby aircraft “poses [a] probable threat” that turned out to be a parachute team participating in a demonstration at a Washington Nationals baseball game.

“The Capitol was evacuated out of an abundance of caution this evening,” according to a statement from the agency on 20 April. “There is no threat at the Capitol.”

An initial advisory sent to Capitol staff and members of the press ordered the evacuations of the Senate and House sides of the Capitol building, as well as the complex buildings, the Library of Congress and nearby Botanic Garden.

The notice said the Capitol Police is “tracking an aircraft that poses a probable threat to the Capitol Complex.”

Minutes later, the agency alerted the public that the Capitol was “evacuated out of an abundance of caution” and that “there is no threat at the Capitol.”

“The aircraft no longer poses a threat to the Capitol Complex and [Capitol Police] is now preparing buldings for entry,” according to an advisory.

The US Army’s Golden Knights parachute team jumped from a twin-engine military plane into Nationals Park for a demonstration during a Nationals game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Capitol Police were not told about the plane carrying the team, prompting the evacuation order.

According to the flight-tracking website Flight Radar, the plane left the military airbase at Joint Base Andrews in nearby Maryland at 6.09pm. Capitol Police issued the evacuation order at 6.32pm, stirring brief panic at the Capitol, though the plane appeared to be clear of what is largely restricted airspace over the Capitol area.

Nationals Park is roughly one mile away.

Within minutes, the agency reported there was “no threat” to the area.

April 20 is “Military Appreciation Day” at Nationals Park, featuring “on-field programming, pregame ceremonies and patriotic uniforms to honor service members and their families.”

The brief panic on Capitol Hill suggests a communications lapse among law enforcement agencies, including the US military, despite heightened scrutiny and an intense focus on security improvements in the wake of the attacks on 6 January, 2021 and several other recent threats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed the mishap on the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency’s “apparent failure to notify Capitol Police of the pre-planned flyover Nationals Stadium is outrageous and inexcusable,” she said in a statement on Wednesday night.

The Independent has requested additional comment from Capitol Police.

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