Photographer describes viral image from Capitol car chase

Jason Sickles
Yahoo News

With sirens blaring and people scrambling for safety all around him, an unidentified man in a suit and tie seems to be buried in his BlackBerry as he strolls by a Capitol Hill Police officer taking position with an assault rifle.

“That’s D.C., right? People are so wrapped up in that little device in their hands that nothing else matters,” said Doug Mills, a New York Times photographer who captured the surreal moment during Thursday’s lockdown at the U.S. Capitol.

Mills took the photo from a third-floor window of the Senate building where doors were being locked because a dramatic car chase and shooting were unfolding on the streets outside.

“There were guys running all around with their guns,” Mills told Yahoo News.

So was the man using his phone to tweet, text or perhaps call family to say he’s OK? Mills, who believes the man is a political staffer, admits he doesn’t know for sure. But he says the man couldn’t have been totally unaware.

“He had to have known that something was going on,” Mills said. “You think he would have had some sort of concern like looking toward the guy who was shooting or kneeling down because everybody was yelling.”

Or have police responses to terrorism scares made us immune to the sights and sounds of SWAT teams?

“Particularly in places like D.C., I think they’ve become very comfortable with the idea of seeing police officers carrying weapons like that and with just that kind of presence in general,” says Radley Balko, author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop, The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.”

Mills’ tweet of the photo, which has been retweeted more than 1,200 times, elicited a range of reaction:

“This town,” wrote Milan Vaishnav.

“Clearly in violation of the Antideficiency Act,” chimed Gregg Levine.

“I think we've all learned something here today,” Bruce Arthur replied.