US Capitol Police on Wednesday afternoon arrested a West Virginia man who was armed with a handgun and 20 rounds of ammunition outside the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which is near the US Capitol, a spokesperson from the Metropolitan Police Department said.
In court documents, authorities identify the man as 71-year-old Dennis Westover. According to a police affidavit, Westover had “Stop the Steal paperwork” with him “that had a list of Senators and Representatives” in both the US Congress and West Virginia state house, along with their contact information.
In an interview with Capitol Police detectives, Westover said that “he was concerned about the honesty and integrity of the election.”
“He said we have some polar extremes of opinion in this nation and that while he believes there was election fraud at this point it is a moot point. He said that, ‘The process I am engaged is righteousness, justice, and truth,’ ” a police officer wrote about the interview.
Westover was “animated” and “shouting” at National Guardsmen on the inside of the perimeter surrounding Capitol Hill when police first approached him Wednesday, according to another police affidavit.
He was taken into custody for having a black 9mm Sig Sauer handgun and the ammunition, the report said. Capitol Police said Westover was specifically charged with carrying a pistol without a license, possession of unregistered ammunition and unlawful possession of a firearm. He was arrested after a Capitol Police officer noticed him parallel parked in the middle of the intersection of Second Street and Washington Avenue SW, they said in a statement.
The arrest comes weeks after hundreds of rioters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to stop the Senate’s confirmation of President Joe Biden. Five people, including a police officer were killed. Security was tightened throughout DC after the January 6 insurrection and continued through last week’s presidential inauguration.
Asked by the responding officer what he was doing, Westover responded, “(He) wanted to see the fence that was around ‘my Capitol,'” the affidavit says.
A judge on Thursday said that Westover could be released from custody — over the protest of a prosecutor who argued Westover may pose a danger to the community.
“Given the statements within the [affidavit], as well as recent events within the district that the court is well aware of, we do think there is reasonable concern for the safety of the community with other release restrictions,” the prosecutor said.
The judge, however, noted that “none of the statements [Westover made to police] are threats, they are just points of view.”
Westover was ultimately ordered to stay out of Washington except for court hearings and meetings with his attorney. Appearing handcuffed in a dark jacket and jeans, he entered a plea of not guilty to the weapons charges. Westover is set to return to court in July.
This story has been updated with additional details.