Local News

How Safe is N.C.'s State Capitol?

Posted July 26, 1998

— The thought of a gunman getting far enough past security to open fire in our nation's capitol is frightening. After Friday's shooting, the issue of security is under scrutiny, right down the road at North Carolina's State Capitol.

Hundreds of people visit there every day. There were 180,000 visitors last year. The governor, lieutenant governor and a few dozen other state employees have offices there. What's to stop someone from bringing in a weapon and opening fire? Not much, apparently.

There are four entrances to the building. All four are unlocked during business hours and unguarded by either police or metal detectors.

"It would be very costly to install that type of device, and we just haven't seen the need, that level of security need at that location," says Capitol Police Chief Johnny Massey.

A lone N.C. Capitol Police officer divides his time between guarding the entrance to the governor's office and patrolling the grounds. There are some security cameras, and a few alarm systems, but the capitol is primarily a historic site and the security presence is minimal.

The violence that erupted in Washington, D.C. on Friday didn't stop dozens of visitors from touring the state capitol Monday.

"That did not cross my mind when I came down here today. It never crossed my mind," said one visitor.

"We could get in a wreck going home right now," said visitor Emory Rogers. "Life's full of risks, and that's just one of them I guess."

Capitol police did re-examine their security procedures after Friday's deadly shootings and say they don't believe any changes are necessary, but police admit such a scenario could play out right here in Raleigh, and there isn't much anyone could do to prevent it.

"If some person decides that they don't care about their own life and they come in there, and do what that man did, there's really nothing we can do but react to that situation," said Massey.

Capitol police officers are also stationed at the justice building, the court of appeals and the attorney general's office, which are all near capitol square. Those officers could respond to trouble at the capitol building if they were needed.


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