NATION

Virginia shooting: Members of Congress have been targets of attacks in the past

The shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning is not the first time that members of Congress have been the targets of a politically motivated violent attack. Here is a list of historical precedents for the attack in Virginia.


March 1, 1954

‘Viva Puerto Rico libre’

Four Puerto Rican nationalists entered the U.S. Capitol with automatic pistols and began shooting from an upstairs spectators’ gallery onto the crowded floor of the House, firing nearly 30 shots. During the shooting, the gunmen unfurled a Puerto Rican flag, and Lolita Lebron, one of the four shooters, shouted, “Viva Puerto Rico libre!”

No deaths resulted from the attack, but five representatives were wounded, including one congresswoman who was shot in the chest.

Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores, Andres Figueroa Cordero and Lebron all received lengthy prison sentences. In 1979, President Carter granted them clemency and they were released. At that time, Lebron said: “We didn’t do anything that we should regret. Everyone has the right to defend their right to freedom that God gave them.”

Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebron is led away by police after she and others began shooting in the House chamber at the Capitol in 1954.
Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebron is led away by police after she and others began shooting in the House chamber at the Capitol in 1954. (Associated Press)

June 5, 1968

RFK assassination

On June 5, 1968, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) was fatally shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after finishing his victory speech upon winning the California presidential primary. He died the next day at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Sirhan B. Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian immigrant, was convicted of Kennedy’s murder and sentenced to death on April 17, 1969. His sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972. The New York Times reported that Sirhan believed at the time that Kennedy was “instrumental” in the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy lies on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel kitchen cradled by busboy Juan Romero moments after he was shot and mortally wounded in 1968.
Sen. Robert F. Kennedy lies on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel kitchen cradled by busboy Juan Romero moments after he was shot and mortally wounded in 1968. (Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times)

Sept. 18, 2001

Anthrax attacks

One week after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, beginning on Sept. 18, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to news media offices and two Democratic senators, Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Five people died and 17 others were infected.

In August 2008, prosecutors announced that charges were to be brought against Bruce E. Ivins, a government scientist. Ivins took his own life before those charges could be filed. On Feb. 19, 2010, the FBI, Department of Justice and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service issued a summary of their investigations concluding that Ivins acted alone in mailing the anthrax letters.

Government scientist Bruce Ivins, who was accused in 2008 of mailing anthrax spores to lawmakers' offices after the 2001 terrorist attacks, entertains at a party in 2004.
Government scientist Bruce Ivins, who was accused in 2008 of mailing anthrax spores to lawmakers' offices after the 2001 terrorist attacks, entertains at a party in 2004. (U.S. Army Medical Institute / MCT)

Jan. 8, 2011

Gabby Giffords shooting

On Jan. 8, 2011, U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords was meeting with constituents in a Safeway store parking lot outside Tucson when a gunman, later identified as 22-year-old Jared Loughner, opened fire.

The shooting left six dead. Thirteen were injured, including the congresswoman, who was shot in the head and suffered permanent brain damage.

Authorities believed that Giffords was the target of the attack. Federal evidence filed after the shooting noted Loughner’s professed love of guns, rants about semiautomatic weapons and an early encounter with Giffords while he was still in high school.

One tipster recalled seeing Loughner at the library on a regular basis watching videos of Giffords’ speeches and “repeatedly talk[ing] loudly to the computer causing a disturbance to others in the area.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona and her husband, Mark Kelly, at a 2013 news conference in Tucson where they asked Congress to pass stricter gun control legislation
Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona and her husband, Mark Kelly, at a 2013 news conference in Tucson where they asked Congress to pass stricter gun control legislation (Joshua Lott / Getty Images)

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kelcey.caulder@latimes.com

Twitter: @kelceycaulder

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