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Security Brief: Attack on Capitol Police

Week of 03/29/21 | Issue 5


Team: NORTHCOM

Attack on Capitol Police

Alexandra Wong, Breana Stringer, Karen Giraldo


U.S. Capitol Police Tribute[1]


Date: April 3, 2021

Location: Washington DC, United States

Parties involved: Noah R. Green; Capitol Police

The event: Just after 1300 local time, 25-year-old suspect Noah R. Green rammed his car into a police barricade outside the northern entrance to the US Capitol building and struck two Capitol Police officers. Green then exited the vehicle with a knife and began lunging at the officers, stabbing more than one of them. At least one officer then shot and killed Green. Capitol Police officer William Evans was killed in the attack, and a second officer was injured. The Capitol building was locked down for about an hour and a half. Since Congress was in recess, most lawmakers were not present, but many aides and staff were inside the building. On Facebook, Green frequently posted about the Nation of Islam and its leader Louis Farrakhan. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designates the Nation of Islam as a hate group: they attempt to lift Black Americans but are simultaneously antisemitic, anti-LGBTQ, and claim superiority over white people. Also, according to recent reports, Green displayed severe mental health struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic that concerned his friends and family.


The implications:

  • This attack follows the January 6 storming of the Capitol building by far-right extremists and white supremacists. In this case, Green’s support of the Nation of Islam represents an attack from the opposite side of the spectrum, demonstrating that fear and paranoia driven by extremism and conspiracy theories are universal factors in promoting violence, particularly in an increasingly polarized country.

  • Only four Capitol Police officers had been killed in the line of duty before this year; two have been killed so far in 2021.[2] As a symbol of the US and its government, the Capitol building may become increasingly targeted by extremists from all sides dissatisfied with the status quo of the government.

  • This attack has raised questions about the security of the US Capitol. The riots on January 6 and prior attacks have caused Capitol police to reinforce their forces at checkpoints, but their efforts have been under scrutiny after this most recent attack. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman testified in front of Congress and apologized for the “failings” of police, but representatives believe that the police force needs more personnel and resources.[3] The increasing target nature of the US Capitol and its police’s understaffed resources continues to elevate the danger to the DC area. If the US Capitol continues to be the target of multiple attacks, it may be beneficial to increase the number of checkpoints in the DC area and increase the number of officers. Detecting warning health signs before these events occur, by making the public aware of warning signs of radicalization. These steps could potentially stop threats before they reach the Capitol and heighten the vigilance of the whole force.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened and amplified cases of violence in many US cities, possibly tied to stress over economic insecurity, as well as online algorithms that lead to confirmation bubbles that bolster conspiratorial theories as well as extremist content and can result in mental health problems.[4] According to Noah Green’s brother, Green suffered from health issues including hallucinations, heart palpitations, headaches, and suicidal thoughts in recent years.[5] In a Facebook post, Green also wrote that “these past few years have been tough, and these past few months have been tougher.”[6] These increased mental health difficulties may have raised his faith-like affinity for the Nation of Islam and Farrakhan and precipitated this act of violence. Groups such as the Nation of Islam can be alluring to individuals going through difficult times, as they create a sense of community and safety for individuals who are confused and searching for a more coherent identity.

  • This particular attack has not been discussed in the mainstream media as much as the events that took place on January 6 during the Capitol Riots. Even though these events occurred on different dates, both attacks were intended to undermine the US Capitol and inflict harm against innocent individuals. Not only does this question the efficiency of Capitol law enforcement, but it also raises skepticism on sensationalist news coverage. The lack of news coverage on this new Capitol attack raises some questions regarding what is truly worth noting across news outlets. Recently, the media has been condemning white domestic terrorists as they grow in size and number of attacks towards minorities. However, the wake of the Boulder shooting and this recent Capitol attack has made it more prevalent to create different narratives once the perpetrator’s background has been exposed. Once the suspect’s identity was released, there was a shift from condemning white supremacy towards talking about gun control and alleged systemic racism, which, in turn, has allowed the Capitol attack to disappear from the news cycle. This event will likely set a pedestal for political grievances to be addressed by groups other than domestic extremists.

[1] U.S. Capitol Police Tribute by Victoria Pickering licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Capitol Police officer killed, another injured after suspect rams car into police barrier outside building, CNN, April 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/02/politics/us-capitol-incident/index.html

[3] Vehicle attack raises new questions about US Capitol security, AlJazeera, April 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/2/vehicle-attack-raises-new-questions-about-us-capitol-security

[4] Police Pin a Rise in Murders on an Unusual Suspect: Covid, The New York Times, October 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/29/us/coronavirus-murders.html

[5] Family and friends concerned Noah Green unraveling before Capitol attack, The Washington Post, April 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/noah-green-capitol-attack/2021/04/02/74f75802-93fe-11eb-a74e-1f4cf89fd948_story.html

[6] Ibid.

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