New England lawmakers and local police were quick to react to the news Friday that a U.S. Capitol Police officer had died and another was badly injured after a driver rammed a car into them at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman confirmed Officer William "Billy" Evans died of injuries sustained in the attack. Congressman Richard Neal said Evans is a native of western Massachusetts.
In a statement Friday night, Neal said his heart broke as he watched the scene at the US Capitol unfold. He called Evans' death tragic, and said it hits home.
"He is indeed a hometown hero and a patriot who risked and sadly lost his life to protect our country. We are a grateful nation in mourning," Neal said. "This evening, my thoughts are with his family and friends who are grieving his untimely passing.”
A longtime friend of Evans told NBC10 Boston that Evans grew up in North Adams where he was a great athlete, excelling in multiple sports. Jason LaForest also said Evans had dreamt of becoming a U.S. Capitol Police officer as a young adult. According to LaForest, Evans had two young children.
Deadly Attack at U.S. Capitol
Following the deadly attack, many highlighted the bravery of Evans and the entire U.S. Capitol Police force. Neal said that he is truly grateful for the brave men and women who work to protect our Capitol, the people who visit it, and those who go to work inside it’s beautiful buildings.
"When I walk into my office, I greet and thank the guards for their service each and every day," he said. "They not only protect us, but our beloved institutions of democracy."
Friday's attack came less than three months after the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Massachusetts Rep. Bill Keating spoke to NBC10 Boston Friday night and said the news came as a shock, a gut punch, especially in such close proximity to the January riot. Keating said frankly it's not something he thought could happen again.
"This is a hard one to swallow, it really is," he said.
Keating, who was not in Washington, D.C., when he joined NBC10 Boston for a virtual interview because Congress is currently in recess, said he is just heartbroken for Evans' family and the other police officers.
"He [Evans] was a familiar face. These are people that we share real time with, see them repeatedly from the morning to the evening," Keating said. "I had personal conversations after the January 6th event with officers, and I have a very deep feeling for the trauma that they've gone through and continue to go through."
"I can't say enough about how much they put on the line for us," Keating added of the Capitol Police force. "One of the things people don't realize is that their first goal is to protect all of us that are there as instruments of government."
"I am grateful every day for their service," the representative shared on his Twitter page.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey thanked Evans for his service to democracy and our country. Evans had been a member of the Capitol Police force for 18 years.
"My thoughts are with the family of Capitol police officer William Evans who lost his life today," she said.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey both expressed their condolences to Evans' family, the injured officer and the police force, while remarking how Friday's incident is yet another tragedy.
"My heart goes out to the loved ones of the officer killed at the Capitol today, the officer who remains hospitalized, and to the entire @CapitolPolice force who protect us every day," Warren said. "This is another tragedy."
"We are all heartbroken to hear that an officer has been killed defending the Capitol," Markey said. "My thoughts are with the officer’s family, the other officer injured, and the entire Capitol Police force which has suffered another tragic loss."
Reps. Seth Moulton, Stephen Lynch, Lori Trahan, Jim McGovern, Jake Auchincloss, and Katherine Clark, who serve Massachusetts' 6th, 8th, 3rd, 2nd, 4th and 5th congressional districts respectively, praised Capitol Police officers for heroically defending our Capitol "when it was under attack yet again."
"I am deeply grateful for their service," Moulton said. "Let us never forget that they put their lives in front of ours every day to keep us safe and preserve the Temple of Democracy for all Americans."
Calling Evans a hero, Moulton said we should all be grateful for his service.
Lynch said he was deeply saddened to learn that Evans was killed in the line of duty while defending the U.S. Capitol from another attack.
"I remain grateful for the courageous service of all of our law enforcement personnel," Lynch said in a statement. "I offer my prayers and support to the Evans family and to our Capitol Police families and I pray for a full recovery for the officers injured by this attack.”
Trahan called it absolutely heartbreaking news.
"Capitol Police officers risk their lives every day to protect the seat of our Democracy," she said. "Today, we lost one of these heroes. My heart goes out the officer’s family and fellow officers mourning this tragic loss."
Auchincloss said defending our democracy at home shouldn’t be more dangerous than defending our democracy abroad.
"Keeping this officer and their family in my thoughts," he said.
McGovern said Capitol Police officers put their lives on the line every day to defend our democracy against a rising tide of threats.
"Stop the violence," he said. "This is heartbreaking and terrible news. Praying for the officer’s family, friends, and for the entire @CapitolPolice community."
Clark also said the violence must stop.
"Heartbreaking news. We have lost a Capitol Police officer, a defender of our Capitol and our democracy," she said. "My thoughts are with the family and friends of the officer and the entire force."
Massachusetts State Police and the Boston Police Department both extended their sympathies to the family, friends and coworkers of Evans.
"With heavy hearts we offer our condolences to our fellow officers of the Capitol Police and the families of the officers attacked in today’s incident," a state police spokesman said in a statement.
State police said they are monitoring developments as federal authorities investigate, but said they are currently not aware of any "connection between the suspected assailant and Massachusetts, nor are there any credible or specific threats of violent activity of a similar nature in this state."
In nearby Connecticut, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he had no words to match the magnitude of this loss, but said his thoughts are with all of the Capitol Police who have endured so much in recent months.
"Our hearts are shattered by the courageous sacrifice of Officer William 'Billy' Evans & the entire Capitol Police force, again putting their lives on the line for our safety & security. I have no words to match the magnitude of this loss. My thoughts are with the injured officers & their families after today’s violence. Thank you to all the @CapitolPolice & first responders who risked their lives today—& every day—to keep the Capitol complex safe."
Sen. Chris Murphy added he is incredibly grateful for the brave Capitol Police officers who protect us. And like Rep. Keating, Murphy called Friday's attack "another gut punch."
"My thoughts are with the family of the slain and injured officers," he said. "This is so, so devastating."
Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Joe Courtney and John Larson also praised the officers who risked their lives to protect our democracy.
"The Capitol Police risk their lives to protect our democracy. In the wake of the January 6 insurrection, their commitment did not falter," DeLauro said. "I pray for the family and comrades of the fallen officer, as well as the officer in the hospital with injuries sustained in the attack."
Courtney said the horrific attack on the Capitol Police officers Friday is a reminder of the dangerous work they perform to protect our democracy.
"This violence casts a pall on our nation, and leaves Americans with heavy hearts on this tragic Good Friday," he said.
Larson said he was horrified that an officer had been killed, another injured.
"I am heartbroken that our nation’s Capitol is once again the target of violence," he said. "My prayers are with the family of the fallen officer, the injured officer, and the entire Capitol Police force. I would like to thank all of the officers on duty and National Guard who acted quickly in response to this attack."
Elsewhere in New England, New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen both extended their heartfelt condolences to Evans' loved ones.
"This is devastating. My heart goes out to this officer's loved ones and to the @CapitolPolice community," Hassan said. "Profoundly grateful to the @CapitolPolice officers who work bravely each day to keep the public, members of Congress, and the media safe."
Shaheen also said her heart goes out to Evans' loved ones and the entire U.S. Capitol Police force that is mourning one of its own after Evans was tragically killed.
"USCP has endured so much these last months," she said. "Keeping those injured today and the entire force in my thoughts."
Reps. Chris Pappas and Ann McLane Kuster both said they were heartbroken by what happened.
"I am heartbroken to learn that a U.S. Capitol Police officer has been killed protecting the Capitol today and another has been injured," Pappas said. "My thoughts are with them and their families. I remain grateful for the Capitol Police's service and for their swift response today."
"Heartbroken. My thoughts are with the family & loved ones of the @CapitolPolice officer who was killed in the line of duty today & the entire USCP community," Kuster said. "I am praying for the full recovery of the officer who was injured."
Maine Sen. Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden all said they were devastated by Evans' death.
"I’m devastated to learn a Capitol Police officer has died in the line of duty," Pingree said. "I am thinking of his family as well as other Capitol Police and first responders who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. We cannot thank you enough."
Golden said he was deeply saddened by Evans' death.
"I am keeping him and his family, as well as the second officer who has been critically wounded, in my prayers tonight," he said.
King said he was both shocked and saddened by the attack at the Capitol, "which once again inflicted immense harm on the brave @CapitolPolice officers who protect us every day."
"I’m praying for the officers involved, their families, and the entire USCP force," he added.
Sen. Susan Collins said this has been a terrible and tragic year for the Capitol Police and their families.
"Each and every day, these policemen & women put their lives on the line. I am so grateful for their courageous service," she said.
In Rhode Island, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said he was shocked to learn of the tragedy at the Capitol.
"My heart goes out to the Capitol Police and the family of the officer killed," he said. "I wish the injured officer a speedy recovery."
Congressman Jim Langevin and Sen. Jack Reed both said they were heartbroken when they heard Evans had died. Reed called him a dedicated officer who gave his life protecting the U.S. Capitol.
"I'm praying for the first responders that continue to keep the Congressional community safe," Langevin said.
"We are heartbroken over the loss of Officer Evans and send our deepest condolences to his friends, families, colleagues, and loved ones," Reed said. "I'm so grateful to the U.S. Capitol Police and so deeply saddened & angered by the senseless killing of one our brave USCP Officers today."
And in Vermont, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy said they were keeping Evans' loved ones and the injured officer in their thoughts.
"Jane and I send our deepest condolences to the loved ones of Officer William Evans who was killed protecting the Capitol," Sanders said. "Our thoughts are also with the officer who remains hospitalized from today’s attack."
Leahy said he and his wife Marcelle are heartbroken.
"We are sending our concerns and our prayers in this somber time to the Capitol Police officers who were struck earlier today at the North Barricade, and to all of the officers who protect not only the Capitol but all who visit or work there," he said.