Congressman Juan Vargas, who represents San Diego’s 51st Congressional District, was in Washington, D.C., Thursday and said he witnessed the frightening incident that unfolded on Capitol Hill.
“I was outside walking back to the Capitol when I heard a ‘pop, pop.’ I thought the sounds were nothing more than a car backfiring, until I looked up to see a Capitol Police Officer charging at me yelling, ‘Stop, stop!’” Vargas explained in a statement released Thursday through a press secretary.
“Upon getting closer, he noticed my Congressional Pin, asked me if I was a Member of Congress and instructed me to show him my ID. Once the officer had verified my identity, I was told to remove my pin because I could be a potential target,” he continued.
“At that moment, I realized something was terribly wrong and asked him what was happening. I was informed that shots had been fired and that two officers were down. It was at that instant that I realized that the popping sounds I had previously heard were gun shots, not a car backfiring. Seconds later there were numerous officers with machine guns surrounding the area where I was standing, and I was sheltered in place.”
According to officials, chaos erupted at Capitol Hill Thursday around 2:30 p.m. ET when a woman with a small child in her car allegedly tried to ram into a White House barricade near 15th and E streets NW, NBC News confirmed.
The woman then led authorities on a pursuit to the U.S. Capitol, where she was ultimately fatally shot by police. A Capitol police officer was injured, reportedly in a crash that happened after the chase.
Several shots were heard, leading to a lockdown on Capitol Hill. The shelter-in-place order was lifted after the incident.
Following the incident, Vargas spoke to NBC 7 by phone from Washington, D.C.
He said has was at the U.S. Capitol and had just finished voting when he was ordered by officials to shelter-in-place less than a block away from where the female suspect was shot by police. He said the ordeal was chilling.
Vargas praised police for their quick response to the incident and ensuring the safety of bystanders. He said he saw about 100 law enforcement officers in the area where he was told to shelter-in-place.
“I didn’t know the facts at the time, but it was quite amazing, how the police responded,” Vargas told NBC 7. “This was unbelievable. I felt like I was in some movie, with the amount of [officers] that came out of the woodwork.”
Vargas is currently serving his first term in Congress. He represents California’s 51st Congressional District, which includes the southern portion of San Diego County, all of Imperial County and California’s entire US-Mexico border. Vargas also served on the San Diego City Council from 1993 through 2000.