Pipe Bomb Discovery, Not Capitol Breach, Triggered Congressional Evacuations: Ex-Police Chief

February 24, 2021 Updated: February 24, 2021

Members of Congress were evacuated on Jan. 6 because of the pipe bomb that was found outside the Republican National Committee headquarters, a former police official said Tuesday.

U.S. Capitol Police found the bomb at 12:45 p.m., before violence started at the Capitol. Soon after, authorities found another device the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

The discoveries “resulted in the evacuation of two congressional buildings, the Cannon House Office Building, as well as one of the Library of Congress buildings,” Steven Sund, former U.S. Capitol Police chief, told senators on Tuesday during a joint hearing.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) asked whether it was correct to say the discovery of the pipe bombs triggered the evacuations.

“That is correct, sir,” Sund replied.

Capitol Police headed the response to the bomb found at the Republican committee headquarters, while the Metropolitan Police Department led the response to the other bomb, the ex-chief, who resigned last month, added. “It took extensive resources,” he said.

Steven Sund
Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testifies in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Rules and Administration committees joint hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington on Feb. 23, 2021. (Erin Scott/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Shortly after the bombs were found, a mob breached the Capitol, making it all the way to the entry of the House chamber and inside the Senate chamber.

Members of Congress had been in a joint session to count electoral votes but went to their respective chambers after an objection to some of the votes was lodged, prior to the evacuation.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is still looking for the person or persons responsible for the pipe bombs. A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information leading to the location, arrest, and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

The bombs were placed on the evening of Jan. 5, authorities said. Surveillance footage showed an individual wearing a face mask, a grey hooded sweatshirt, and Nike shows in yellow, black, and gray walking and carrying a backpack in their hand.

The bombs were “real devices” with “explosive igniters” and “timers,” acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told reporters last month.

Officials were investigating to see why they didn’t explode.

“That is obviously being vetted and investigated. What was the purpose of those devices being planted? Was it a diversionary type of a tactic used by some of these rioters? Or did it have some other type of nefarious purpose? So that is what the [investigators] are looking at as we speak right now, and looking for those persons that planted those devices,” he said.

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