Image courtesy of U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
A Capitol Police Honor Guard salutes the coffins of Officer Jacob J. Chestnut, Jr. and Detective John M. Gibson as the first private citizens to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.
On this date, two Capitol Police officers, Officer Jacob J. Chestnut, Jr., and Detective John M. Gibson, died in the line of duty. An armed assailant stormed past a U.S. Capitol security checkpoint, mortally wounding Officer Chestnut. In the initial crossfire between the gunman and Capitol Police, a gunshot injured a tourist. As congressional aides and Capitol visitors sought cover, the assailant ran toward a door that led to the suites of then–Majority Whip Tom DeLay
of Texas. Detective Gibson, a member of DeLay’s security detail, told aides to seek cover. Gibson and the assailant exchanged gunfire. Although fatally wounded, Gibson’s action enabled other officers to subdue the gunman. Within a few days of the tragedy, the House and Senate authorized a concurrent resolution for a memorial service for the officers to “lie in honor”
in the Capitol Rotunda. The officers were buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. Representative DeLay commented that the officers’ deaths represented, “the sacrifices of thousands of police officers across the Nation who do their duty to serve and protect the public, sometimes under great abuse, sometimes under great disregard, and many times people take them for granted. It all comes together when an incident like this happens and we realize how much we owe to police officers all over this country.”