2 Fallen Officers Were ‘There Every Day’ for the Capitol
Jacob Chestnut, one of the two police officers killed in the Capitol shooting, was the kind of guy who would always toot his car horn as he drove up the street in suburban Fort Washington, Md.
John Gibson, the other officer, was a Massachusetts native who celebrated the highs and lows of two sports teams quite capable of both feats: the Boston Red Sox and the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team.
Rep. Bill Thomas of California spoke of the loss he and his colleagues felt after Friday’s shooting, a sentiment shared by their neighbors and friends.
“We pass them multiple times during the day and you exchange, you know, ‘How are ya?’ You don’t expect an answer,” said Thomas, his voice cracking. “But they’re there every day. And no one expects this to happen.”
Besides Chestnut and Gibson, a tourist, Angela Dickerson, 24, was wounded. The gunman, identified as Russell E. Weston of Missoula, Mont., was captured after being shot.
One of Chestnut’s neighbors, Eugene Lowe, recalled Chestnut stopping by as he once raked the leaves in his yard. Chestnut took away a bunch and then mulched them in his own yard.
Another neighbor, Jerome Goldring, said: “He would be mindful of our property when we went out of town.”
And once a year, neighbors could expect to hear a knock at their door. Outside would be Chestnut and his wife, Wen, asking for money for the Tantallion Square Civic Assn. The group used any money collected to provide scholarships to local children and send along flowers when one of the neighbors died.
“I didn’t know him real well, but that never stopped him from being friendly,” Lowe recalled just hours after the shooting. “He was a very nice man, very concerned about the neighborhood.”
Gibson, 42, was from suburban Waltham, Mass. He had three children and was married to the niece of Rep. John Joseph Moakley (D-Mass.). Like her uncle, she grew up in the Irish-Catholic neighborhood of South Boston.
Gibson was an eight-year veteran of the Capitol Police. His current assignment was providing security for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the House Republican whip.
Tony Rudy, policy director and general counsel to DeLay, said Gibson prevented bloodshed by confronting Weston outside the office.
“The whole office believes that Gibson saved our lives,” Rudy said. “There’s no doubt in our mind that this guy would have come in and just shot people one at a time.”
Chestnut, 58, a native of South Carolina, was the father of two and the grandfather of one.
His 22-year-old daughter, Karen, is a student at the University of Maryland. She lived with her parents and her 3-year-old daughter, Jasmine. The Chestnuts’ 19-year-old son, William, was a sophomore at Florida A&M;, Goldring said.
Chestnut’s sister-in-law, Wenyang Johnson, who lives two blocks away, said Chestnut met his wife in Taiwan in 1974 when he was stationed there as an Air Force police officer. She is a computer programmer at a local hospital.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1980, Chestnut began his 18-year career as a Capitol Police officer.
Despite Chesnut’s age, Lowe remembers him as a remarkably fit man who stood more than 6 feet tall.
Lowe said he would occasionally see Chestnut guarding a door at the entrance to the Capitol, just like he was doing when he was shot Friday.
Johnson said if her brother-in-law had two loves, it was his family and his garden. His specialty was tomatoes, which he would always share with the fellow residents of his neighborhood.
“We are shocked,” Johnson said. “He was such a wonderful man.”