Leo Thornton, 22, from Lincolnwood, Illinois, committed suicide on the lower west terrace of the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, April 11, resulting in a lockdown at the Capitol itself and the nearby Capitol Visitor Center. A witness who observed the incident from the Capitol steps reported that a man entered the terrace and then, without warning, shot himself in the head. The man had been carrying a protest sign, as well as a backpack and wheeled suitcase. The backpack and suitcase were handled by a bomb disposal team and determined to be harmless. Nobody else was injured.
Capitol Police lifted the lockdown around 4:00 p.m., but the west terrace remained closed during the investigation. There is no apparent link to terrorism.
Thornton was reported missing by his family on Saturday morning after he failed to return home from work the night before. According to Lincolnwood Deputy Police Chief John Walsh, Thornton suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, which is a form of autism. It is unclear at this time how Thornton got to Washington, DC, from Illinois. He traveled between Friday afternoon and mid-day on Saturday, but there were no travel-related charges on his credit cards and investigators have not announced finding any car that Thornton may have used.
Reports state that Thornton’s protest sign said, “Tax the 1%.” This is likely in reference to the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement’s false claims that the top one percent of American wage earners pay less federal tax than the remaining ninety-nine percent. In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, the top one percent of wage earning households paid twenty-four percent of all federal taxes though they made only fifteen percent of all national income. On average, the top one percent pay about thirty percent of their income to federal taxes, a higher rate than any other income group (Congressional Budget Office).
Originally posted on Saturday, April 11, 2015.
Updated with new information on Monday, April 14, 2015.