Lawmaker Barricaded Himself in Bathroom with a Civil War Sword During U.S. Capitol Riot

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Sean Neumann
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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Rep. Bruce Westerman

While high-ranking members of Congress were quickly ushered away by security during the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, other lawmakers sheltered in place — in one case, protecting themselves with anything they could get their hands on.

For Rep. Bruce Westerman, according to a New York Times report published this week, that meant grabbing a decorative Civil War sword from the wall and barricading himself in a congressional bathroom.

Westerman, a 53-year-old Republican from Arkansas, was waiting out the attack inside House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office when security swooped in to lead McCarthy to a safer location.

Left behind, Westerman "commandeered a Civil War sword from an office display, barricaded himself in Mr. McCarthy's private bathroom and waited out the siege while crouched on the toilet," the Times reported.

A spokesperson for Westerman told PEOPLE he wouldn't comment further on his experience during the riot, which he has described as "craziness" and "a really disgraceful moment for our country."

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Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Rep. Bruce Westerman

Westerman told The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record in January that he was speaking with McCarthy, 56, in the latter's office when Capitol security whisked away the Republican House leader.

Soon, entranced with images of the riots playing on a TV inside the office, Westerman snapped back into reality and realized no one — not even McCarthy's staff — were left inside the office with him, the Arkansas paper reported.

"How did this happen, where I'm by myself in the minority leader's office?' Westerman remembered thinking.

"I thought, 'Well I kinda missed the boat here on the evacuation thing, but I think I'll be OK just sitting here in the leader's office,' " Westerman told the Sentinel-Record.

So, the Times reported this week, he grabbed a sword from the wall and locked himself inside the half-bathroom in McCarthy's office and turned off the lights.

At one point, a rioter had tried to open the bathroom door while he was inside, he told local news station KNWA.

Al Drago/CQ Roll Call Rep. Bruce Westerman

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Westerman was in and out of the bathroom for about two-and-a-half hours, he told the Sentinel-Record. Outside the door, he heard Capitol Police in riot gear engaging with the mob.

"I distinctly remember hearing one woman say, 'Oh, this is a nice office,' " Westerman previously told the Sentinel-Record.

"You could hear flash-bangs, you could hear tear-gas canisters, people had sticks that they were beating on doors and breaking windows and that sort of thing," he added.

Westerman, a Republican, did not dispute the 2020 election results when Congress voted to certify President Joe Biden's election.

After the riots, in which five people died, Westerman told the Sentinel-Record the life-threatening scenario on Capitol Hill was "very surreal" and "very disheartening."

"It's an attack on the very core of our country and our democracy for this to happen," Westerman said then. "I cannot denounce it enough, what these people did."