U.S. Capitol Shooting: Gunman Is ‘Prophet’ Who Once Said God Told Him to Seduce Teen Girl

Larry Dawson, a pastor from Tennessee, was shot inside the Visitor Center—and it’s not the first time he’d caused trouble on Capitol Hill.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

The man who drew a gun at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on Monday previously called himself a “prophet of God” and once said God commanded him to ask a teenage girl to come live with him.

U.S. Capitol Police said Larry Russell Dawson of Antioch, Tennessee, has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon and assault on a police officer while armed. Dawson, 66, was shot by a U.S. Capitol Police officer and is hospitalized in stable but critical condition, police said.

At a press conference outside the Capitol on Monday evening, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said that at approximately 2:40 p.m. Dawson “drew what appeared to be a weapon and pointed it at officers” during a routine screening at the Visitor Center. One officer fired and struck Dawson.

The police officer was not injured, contrary to previous reports. A female bystander sustained a non-life-threatening injury during the incident, police said.

Dawson, the pastor of St. Luke’s Church outside Nashville, previously wrote on his church’s website that he was leading a “movement” to urge Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

“Our assignment is to do the will of God in the Earth,” he wrote, citing financial independence as God’s will alongside saving souls.

Dawson said he had been to Washington three times for his mission. One time, on Oct. 22, 2015, Dawson yelled, “I’m a prophet of God!” from the balcony of the House of Representatives.

Dawson then allegedly ran from cops and resisted arrest, according to a police report exclusively obtained by The Daily Beast. Cops cuffed him, accusing him of assaulting a police officer and unlawful conduct at the Capitol.

The Washington Post reported that Dawson missed a court appearance in November, writing in a letter to the court:

“I have been called chosen and sent unto you this day. I am not under the law!...Therefore I will not comply with the court order, nor will I surrender myself to your office.”

The Gudmestad family was in the capitol visitors’ center when the incident occurred. They told The Washington Post that they figured out it was an active shooter before they were officially told so by police, from Twitter. “There was just yelling, and they told us to get down, and then the officers got us into the theater,” Amy Gudmestad said.[9:14]

It's not the first time God commanded him to do something.

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In 2001, Dawson was fired as a school bus driver in Williamson County, Tennessee, after he wrote personal, suggestive letters to a teenage girl.

“Have notice [sic] that you are gaining weight, and I have notice this over the past few days God has brought it to my attention that you may need to see a doctor, possible [sic] you may be with child or pregnant in other words[.] Also God has said that it is going to be necessary that you come to my home and stay for a little while, where I can watch over you during this period of time,” the Nashville Tennesseean quoted at the time.

In 2003, Franklin was arrested on the charge of harassment in writing for sending the same girl letters that “professed his love for her and his desire for her to become his wife and bear him a child.”

Dawson apparently arrived in Washington, D.C., on Monday after spending Easter Sunday in church in Nashville with his daughter, according to a now-deleted Facebook post.

As the incident unfolded on Monday, the Capitol and adjacent office buildings were placed on lockdown, and staff were told to shelter in place before an all-clear order was issued after a half-hour. Many staffers and reporters thought the orders were part of a pre-scheduled lockdown drill held earlier that morning.

The Visitor Center was commissioned, in part, as a response to a 1998 shooting at the Capitol, when Russell Eugene Weston Jr., a paranoid schizophrenic, entered the building and shot and killed Capitol Police officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson. All visitors to the Capitol now enter via the underground center and its layers of security.

Violence is not uncommon on Capitol Hill. Last April, a man killed himself outside the building with a single shot, prompting a Capitol lockdown.

In 2013, a 34-year-old woman attempted to drive through a White House security checkpoint, striking a Secret Service agent in the process and leading police on a chase to the Capitol, where she was fatally shot. Her young daughter was discovered unharmed in the back seat of the vehicle after it had been stopped.

Three decades earlier, in 1971, the Weather Underground exploded a bomb in a Senate bathroom. No one was injured. And in 1954, four Puerto Rican nationalists fired 30 rounds from a balcony overlooking the House chambers, injuring five congressman, all of whom later recovered.

In 1835, President Andrew Jackson survived an assassination attempt after leaving a funeral at the Capitol. The gunman’s weapon misfired, sparing the president, who then confronted the perpetrator, clubbing him with a cane.

— Additional reporting by Betsy Woodruff from Washington, D.C.