Capitol Police Chief Speaks About McKinney Altercation

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - The chief of the U.S. Capitol Police is speaking out, for the first time, about the altercation between one of his officers and Rep. Cynthia McKinney.

The Georgia Democrat claims a police officer's decision to stop her after she walked past a security checkpoint without identifying herself last week was racially motivated, but Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said Tuesday evening that the officer was just doing his job.

"When there's a crush of people at the door, things can get hectic there and the officers are taught to take control of the door, slow things down and make sure that you know who's coming in and what they may be bringing in or not," Gainer told WTTG television reporter Will Thomas. "And I believe that's all this officer was trying to do."

As Cybercast News Service reported last week, McKinney claimed the incident was instigated, not as part of the officer's duty to secure the Longworth House Office Building, but by the officer's racism as evidenced by his "inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female black Congresswoman."

McKinney claimed that she was "urgently trying to get to an important meeting on time to fulfill my obligations to my constituents.

"Unfortunately, the police officer did not recognize me as a member of Congress, and a confrontation ensued," McKinney said in a statement on her website.

While McKinney said she "deeply regret[s] that the incident occurred," she has not apologized for allegedly striking the officer, who reportedly took hold of her arm when she refused multiple verbal requests to stop and identify herself. Gainer said Tuesday night that the officer was only trying to confirm that McKinney indeed was authorized to bypass the security checkpoint.

"That's simply the case. I think 99 percent of the members of Congress slow down and let themselves be recognized," Gainer explained. "This is a case in which the officer didn't recognize the member and simply took the next prudent procedure."

Capitol Police referred the investigation to the U.S. Attorney's Office late Monday. The Associated Press cited unnamed sources as confirming that the police department responsible for protecting the U.S. Capitol complex, staff, visitors and members of Congress is seeking an arrest warrant for McKinney. A statement issued by the Capitol Police did not mention those reports.

"Last week, there was an incident involving Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and a United States Capitol Police Officer," the statement said. "The United States Capitol Police has referred its investigative findings to the United States Attorney."

McKinney had previously stated that "I am certain that after a full review of the facts, I will be exonerated." Congressional offices were closed and, therefore, no one from McKinney's staff was available for comment when Gainer's remarks were broadcast.

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