Laurel federal employee was one block from gun shots at Capitol

UPDATE: Laurel resident Clayton Cooper Jr., a federal employee parked on Capitol Hill to demonstrate against the shutdown, said he was a block away from where shots were fired Thursday afternoon.

Cooper, who was parked at 3rd and Jefferson streets, said he heard "what sounded like 10 to 12 shots fired over next to the Senate."

Other news organizations have reported shots fired at Second Street and Constitution Avenue. There are unconfirmed reports that a law enforcement officer has been injured.

The Capitol was on lockdown, but that has since been lifted.

"We all just dropped down to the ground and then the place started getting swarmed with police officers," Cooper said of the scene on the Hill.

He said he and the rest of his group of demonstrators packed up as quickly as possible and left the area.

"We threw our stuff in the back of the truck and got out as fast as we could," he said.


Below is the story initially published about Cooper and how he is dealing with the shutdown.

When Laurel resident Clayton Cooper Jr. found out he would be furloughed as part of the federal government shutdown, he decided he wouldn't spend his new-found free time at home.

"I can't go to work, I'm not going to stay at home, so I'm packing up and moving to Capitol Hill," Cooper said.

Now on Day 3 of the shutdown with no end in sight, Cooper is still parking at the Hill everyday and hoping to bring some attention to the shutdown's impact on ordinary Americans.

He's been feeding the meter: At 25 cents for every eight minutes in a parking spot, and a total of about 12 hours spent each day in Washington, Cooper's parking is $24 a day.

He said he was surprised there weren't more people out there with him.

"We've yet to muster up that big giant crowd that we were hoping for," he said.

But Cooper and about four fellow demonstrators did see their first politician today, he said. Rep. Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, stopped to thank the group as he passed by on a jog. "He was shocked that we were the only four out here," Cooper said.

Cooper said the late-summer weather the Washington area has been experiencing sometimes made it tough to sit outside all day. He had to take down his canopy because he didn't have a permit.

Today has been a bit better, so far: "The cloud coverage is helping, but I think it's starting to go away," he said.

Retired from the military, Cooper works for the government as a civilian in a job related to national security. When he found out about the shutdown Tuesday, his response was a mixture of "disgust and displeasure, and a pit in my stomach," he said. "I could not believe this has actually happened, that Congress would actually allow this to happen and affect thousands and thousands of people.

They are messing with the livelihood of all of these people as they play tit-for-tat with the president," he added.

Cooper said he is planning to park in front of the Capitol, accompanied by coworkers and family members with homemade signs. He's made signs that say "WTFC?" The C stands for Congress.

The signs also quote the last promise in the congressional oath of office: "that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter."

He said he hopes that passersby will stop to talk and autograph his signs to show their support.

Members of Congress, he said, have "been in their ivory tower for so long that they forgot what it is to be down here and how people actually live. People, not everyone, but people are paycheck-to-paycheck. The government is not one of those agencies where you go into it to get rich."

Cooper said he still plans to park in front of the Capitol every day until the shutdown is over.

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