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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/ AP) — A Florida man is under arrest after landing his one person helicopter onto the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
The landing prompted a temporary lockdown of the Capitol Visitor Center.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, 61-year old Doug Hughes, a postal carrier from Ruskin, Florida has been arrested for the incident.
Capitol Police didn’t immediately identify the pilot or comment on his motive, but Hughes took responsibility for the stunt on a website where he said he was delivering letters to all 535 members of Congress in order to draw attention to campaign finance corruption.
“As I have informed the authorities, I have no violent inclinations or intent,” Hughes wrote on his website, thedemocracyclub.org. “An ultralight aircraft poses no major physical threat — it may present a political threat to graft. I hope so. There’s no need to worry — I’m just delivering the mail.”
Capitol Police identified the aircraft as a “gyro copter with a single occupant.”
Hughes clued the Tampa Bay Times into his plan before take-off.
In an interview with the paper before his flight he said, “I’d rather die in the flight then live to be 80 years old and see this country fail.”
He knew his stunt would garner attention from police and security officials, but he said he knew he would not be taken down violently.
“I don’t believe that anyone wants to personally take responsibility for the fall out that would result from publicly executing someone for an act of dissent,” Hughes told the paper.
“I’m not suicidal,” he added. “Terrorists don’t announce their flights before they take off. Terrorists don’t broadcast their plans before they take off and they don’t invite an escort to go along with them.”
House Homeland Security panel Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said the pilot landed on his own, but that had he made it much closer to the Capitol authorities were prepared to shoot him down. “Had it gotten any closer to the speaker’s balcony they have long guns to take it down, but it didn’t. It landed right in front,” McCaul said.
Hughes told the Tampa Bay Times he gave authorities a one-hour notice of his flight. He said a Secret Service Agent visited his home last spring and he was upfront about his plans.
Witnesses said the craft approached the Capitol from the west, flying low over the National Mall and the Capitol reflecting pool across the street from the building. It barely cleared a row of trees and a statue of Gen. Ulysses Grant.
John Jewell, 72, a tourist from Statesville, North Carolina, said the craft landed hard and bounced. An officer was already there with a gun drawn. “He didn’t get out until police officers told him to get out. He had his hands up'” and was quickly led away by the police, Jewell said. “They snatched him pretty fast.”
Downtown Washington is blanketed by restrictions on air traffic that generally prohibit aircraft from flying over the White House, the Capitol, the national Mall and key buildings without special permission.
The situation was under investigation and streets in the area were shut down. Emergency vehicles were dispatched to the area and a robot bomb detector was sent over to the craft.
Amid the commotion, the small craft presented a strange sight sitting on the green lawn of the Capitol, its rotors slowly spinning.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)