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Police: Shots fired on steps of Texas Capitol

A man fires several shots into the air while standing on the Texas Capitol's south steps before throwing down his handgun as state troopers tackle him.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man fired several shots into the air Thursday while standing on the Texas Capitol's south steps before throwing down his handgun as state troopers closed in and tackled him, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

Nobody was injured in the shooting, department spokesman Tom Vinger said. The 24-year-old suspect from the Houston area was taken to the Travis County Jail and faces felony charges of deadly conduct, Vinger said. His name wasn't immediately released.

The shots rang out just after noon, and officers with rifles quickly swarmed the scene. More than a half dozen Department of Public Safety cars quickly appeared, and troopers converged on the building. The Capitol was on lockdown as officials searched as a precaution.

"I thought he was shooting at the birds. I ran," said Veronica Briseno, a tourist from Mexico who said she saw the shooter fire his weapon into the air.

Jill Magid, an artist from New York City, said she was just inside the front doors of the Capitol when the shots were fired. She ran out the doors in time to see troopers holding a man down on the ground.

"They were all over him," Magid said. "I could hear him saying 'my hands are up.'"

Gov. Rick Perry was not in the building at the time, his office said, and many lawmakers were away from Austin because the legislature was not in session.

Some lawmakers were inside the Capitol, though. House Speaker Joe Straus' office said he was stuck in the building while it was on lockdown. Sen. Leticia Van De Putte wrote on her Twitter page that she was also inside.

Republican Sen. Dan Patrick said on his Twitter page that he wasn't in the office but his staff called security.

"An individual came into my Austin Senate office today acting strangely, staff called security, moments later shots fired on Capitol steps," he wrote.

Lorne Kozak, of Edmonton, Alberta in Canada, was visiting the Capitol grounds with his 10-year-old son Spencer when they heard gunfire. He said they were about 30 yards from the steps when the shots rang out.

"What I heard was four rifle shots," Kozak said. "There appeared to be a cluster of officers attending to someone on the steps and more officers kept pouring out of the building and of course the sirens."

They snapped a few quick pictures before walking away when police told them to leave.

DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said the Capitol was expected to be reopened to the public later Thursday afternoon.