WASHINGTON — A small helicopter landed on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol with a single occupant aboard on Wednesday, but a bomb squad found nothing hazardous and normal operations have resumed, U.S. Capitol Police said.
Police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider said in a statement that one man was in custody with charges pending, but she declined to give further information.
The Tampa Bay Times reported on Wednesday that the pilot was Doug Hughes, 61, a mailman from Ruskin, Florida. A U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman confirmed the person in custody was a rural letter carrier but did not give a name.
Streets near the Capitol were temporarily closed while police investigated, according to a police statement that called the craft a “gyro copter.” Streets have since been reopened and the aircraft removed.
The copter resembled a small open-air helicopter with a single rotor on top.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it was investigating the incident. Security rules prohibit aircraft from flying close to the Capitol, White House and other locations without special permission.
The FAA said the pilot of the gyro copter was not authorized to enter restricted airspace.
In a bystander video that was obtained by the Associated Press, the copter is shown flying over the reflecting pool west of the Capitol and landing on the lawn.
Nora Neus, 21, of Tenafly, New Jersey, told Reuters that after the craft landed, police ordered the man in it not to move. She said he did not resist arrest.
“It seemed relatively intentional, he just kind of landed and sat there,” said Neus, who was in Washington for a job interview.
The Tampa Bay Times reported earlier on Wednesday that Hughes planned to make the flight to draw attention to the issue of campaign finance reform. He wrote letters addressed to each member of Congress calling for changes, the paper said.
The security scare comes after a man shot himself dead in front of the Capitol on Saturday and sparked a temporary lockdown.
In January, a small “quadcopter” drone crashed onto the White House lawn. The man who was operating it did not face criminal charges.