February 2, 2023

A US Capitol police car drives past the US Capitol in Washington, USA on January 26, 2021.

Al Drago | Reuters

The acting head of the US Capitol Police called on Thursday for permanent fencing in the US Capitol complex, citing the January 6 uprising by a group of supporters of then President Donald Trump.

Calls for “huge improvements” to the security of the Capitol came the day after a West Virginia man was arrested when his car, parked near the complex’s temporary barrier, was found to have a gun and ammunition and a list the members of Congress contained.

Acting Capitol chief Yogananda Pittman noted that a 2006 Capitol security assessment “specifically recommended the installation of a permanent perimeter fence.”

“In light of recent events, I can clearly state that the physical security infrastructure needs to be significantly improved to allow permanent fences and the availability of emergency services in close proximity to the Capitol,” said Pittman.

She noted that after becoming acting chief two days after the riot, she directed staff to conduct a physical security assessment of the entire Capitol complex, in addition to an internal police guard’s review of the January 6th events with a Third party verification of the complex’s security systems.

“In the end, we all have the same goal – to prevent what happened on January 6th from ever happening again,” said Pittman.

Five people died in the riot, including a Capitol policeman.

Two more Capitol police officers have killed each other since that day, and up to 140 other officers have been injured while fighting Trump supporters who entered the convention halls, according to the Capitol Police Union.

A temporary fencing was set up after the violence, motivated by anger over Congress’ proposed confirmation of President Joe Biden’s election that day.

Shortly before the Trump uprising, his sons, personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and other key supporters reiterated false claims that Biden won the election through electoral fraud and urged followers to help undo Biden’s victory.

A permanent fence would drastically change the traditional atmosphere around the Capitol, whose grounds and buildings were usually open to the public.

West Virginia man arrested

On Wednesday afternoon, Washington police arrested a 71-year-old West Virginia man, Dennis Warren Westover, who parked his car on the street near the fence on the southwest side of the Capitol and began to “yell at” [National] Guardsmen who were inside the fence line, “the authorities said.

Westover, who lives in South Charleston, later told police, “I wanted to see the fence that was around ‘my capitol’,” according to court records.

Westover’s car, according to court documents, contained a Sig Sauer P365 semi-automatic pistol with 10 rounds of ammunition and a separate 9mm 10-round magazine in the center console of the car.

Westover was charged with carrying an unregistered firearm and ammunition.

He told police he was “concerned about the honesty and integrity of the elections,” according to a criminal complaint.

The complaint also contained “Stop the Steal Paperwork” in his car, which contained a list of Senators and representatives from the US Congress and the West Virginia House of Representatives with contact information.

“He said that is the process that I am busy with [in] is justice, justice and truth, “says the complaint.