WASHINGTON – For the third time in eight months, Washington was brought to a standstill as the seat of the U.S. government came under the threat of violence Thursday, this time from a man who parked a truck near the Capitol, demanded to speak with President Joe Biden about a range of grievances and threatened to destroy two blocks of the nation’s capital with an explosive device.
Congressional office buildings and nearby homes were evacuated as authorities negotiated with the man, identified by law enforcement as Floyd Ray Roseberry, 49, of North Carolina. Roseberry surrendered to authorities after about five hours and will face criminal charges, U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said. No bomb was found in his car, although officials said they did discover materials that could be used to make explosives.
Before he was taken into custody, Roseberry delivered a tirade over a Facebook live video in which he assailed Biden and other Democrats, called for a revolt against the federal government and claimed there were other “patriots” waiting in vehicles elsewhere in D.C.
“The revolution is on, it’s here, it’s today,” he said in his live stream. “America needs a voice. I’ll give it to them.”
Roseberry voiced disgust with Biden’s Afghanistan policy and called on Democratic senators to step down, saying they were “killing America.”
The video circulated widely online before social media companies began to remove it. An 81-second excerpt of the live stream was viewed more than 400,000 times on Twitter before the company started cracking down on posts that contained it.
Law enforcement officials said Thursday afternoon that they had no indications Roseberry was acting with accomplices. By late afternoon police had reopened roads and allowed people to return to their homes.
Congress is not in session this week. But many legislative aides and other government employees were working, and the rushed evacuation evoked memories of the violent storming of the Capitol just over seven months ago by a mob seeking to overturn the electoral defeat of President Donald Trump.
In the aftermath of that riot, downtown Washington became in essence a quasi-militarized zone, with barriers erected around the Capitol to protect against further attacks. In April, a Capitol police officer was killed when a man rammed his car into a barricade outside the building. The fortifications were removed just last month.
Washington has long been subject to isolated, dramatic threats from American citizens. In 1982 a man was shot by police after he threatened to blow up the Washington Monument unless a ban on nuclear weapons was prioritized. In 2003 a tobacco farmer unhappy with federal policy drove his tractor into a pond on the Mall, threatened to detonate explosives and engaged in a 47-hour standoff with police before surrendering.
But since the Capitol was breached on Jan. 6, a different and more severe unease has settled over the nation’s capital, born of a growing sense that political violence – or the threat of it – may now be a recurring aspect of life.
“I’ve been on the Hill for six years last month,” Jordan Wilson, director of operations and emergency coordinator in the office of Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., said Thursday. “And I can’t tell you how many people have left in the last six, eight, nine months, in both parties, just because these things are hard to go through. And it does beg the question, is it worth it?”
With each security alert, it’s Wilson’s job to make sure the staff is safe and accounted for, to lock the doors and identify the nearest evacuation route if that becomes necessary. And with each security alert it grows more emotionally draining, Wilson said. His mom contacted him while watching the situation unfold on the news, just as she did after Jan. 6.
“And again today she asked, ‘Why are you still working here?’ ” he said. “That’s a hard question to answer.”
Sarah Rose, who lives on the corner of A and Fourth streets in Southeast Washington, came outside after 10 a.m. to find her neighbors walking away from their houses in a crowd. Officers were going door to door asking residents to leave. She retreated with her children to a distant playground as the standoff unfolded.
“We were trying to make it normal for the kids,” she said. “As much as possible.”
Authorities had disclosed little information about Roseberry on Thursday afternoon.
Roseberry spoke with his son and his son’s fiancee on Wednesday and did not mention his plans to head to the U.S. Capitol and threaten to detonate a bomb, said Courtney Foster, who said she is engaged to Roseberry’s son and considers Roseberry a father.
Roseberry often talked about politics with his family, Foster said, sharing his dislike for Biden’s policies, support for Trump and skepticism about vaccines.
“We didn’t know that he was going to do any of this. We didn’t know anything” Foster, 20, of Grover, N.C., said in a telephone interview. “He is just a good old farming country man that has just kind of had enough, I guess, and you know, kind of reached his breaking point.”
Roseberry’s father, Floyd Roseberry, said his son had experienced mental health problems in the past. He was convicted of larceny multiple times beginning in the late 1980s, according to court records. More recently, he ran an auto-repair business and owned a mobile home park. He had become more religious, sharing the deep Christian beliefs of his new wife, according to his father.
“He had gotten on his feet and was doing good,” the elder Roseberry said. “I don’t know what to say. I have to keep praying for him.”
In a telephone interview, his ex-wife, Crystal Roseberry, said their 10-year marriage – which ended about a decade ago – had been stormy because of his volatile temper. But she said she still was shocked to see her former husband’s face on social media Thursday.
Her phone had been ringing all day, she said, as friends and family expressed similar disbelief.
“He’s never done nothing like this before,” she said.
Two North Carolina State Highway Patrol cars were blocking the road to an address associated with Roseberry in the Grover area on Thursday afternoon. State Trooper Russell Corry said they had been directed to shut down the road while officials cleared the residence as a precautionary measure.
The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremism and terrorist groups, said Roseberry’s social media was full of pro-Trump material, although Roseberry said in his live stream Thursday he was not motivated by political partisanship.
“I’m here for a reason, Joe Biden. I’m here for the American people. And if you want to take me out, take me out. But when the patriots come, your a— is in trouble,” Roseberry says in the video. “So if you blow my truck up man, it’s on you, Joe. I’m ready to die for the cause.”
He said he has a wife, whom he had told he was going fishing through Sunday, as well as two children and a grandchild. At one point, he showed piles of coins in the back of the truck and said he threw $3,000 in cash onto a sidewalk.
Members of Congress – many of them away in their home districts – expressed a mix of concern and incredulity at yet another threat to their place of business.
“Today, once again, the Capitol Police, FBI and other law enforcement dealt with a potential threat to the Capitol Hill community,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “The immense gratitude of the Congress is with all law enforcement officers who today and all days sacrifice to keep the Capitol Complex and those within it safe.”
“I have checked in with my DC-based staff and they are all safely away from the Capitol Complex,” Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., wrote on Twitter. “I thank Capitol police and first responders for their response and pray everyone remains safe.”
Fear and sadness – but not necessarily surprise – were also voiced by those who found themselves near the Capitol as the standoff unfolded.
Victoria Cowens and Courtney Mahugu had recently moved to D.C. for their freshman year at Howard University. They were trying to visit the Supreme Court when the bomb threat came through.
“It’s disappointing, as a country,” Cowens, of Rochester, N.Y., said.
“The fence was just lowered a couple months ago and it felt like progress,” said Mahugu, of Kansas. “It makes you fearful to see all these cop cars.”
In the chaos, they never made it to the Supreme Court.
After Roseberry had been arrested, Rebecca Adeyanju, 35, and her husband, Ken, 40, walked with their two daughters – 5 and 6 months old – toward the Capitol. The family had stopped in D.C. on a family road trip to Texas from their home in Maine. They had just learned of the bomb scare.
“It’s all terrible, and it needs to stop,” Rebecca Adeyanju said. “I could say so much, but really it just needs to stop.”
“It’s not right,” said Ken Adeyanju, who held their infant daughter. “It’s just insane. I don’t know why this keeps happening.”
The Washington Post’s Dana Hedgpeth, Ellie Silverman, Robert Barnes, Peter Hermann, Pam Kelley, Matt Zapotosky, Jennifer Jenkins, Rachel Weiner, Cristiano Lima, Paul Kane, Marianna Sotomayor, Drew Harwell, Hannah Natanson, Teo Armus, Karoun Demirjian, Nicole Asbury and Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.