Atlanta man arrested with gun near U.S. Capitol faces numerous charges

Washington — An Atlanta man is facing numerous charges after he was found in a park near the U.S. Capitol carrying an “AR-style” pistol Tuesday, according to court records.

The suspect, identified by law enforcement as 21-year-old Ahmir Lavon Merrell, was arrested by U.S. Capitol Police after a witness alerted officers to a man with a gun walking in the park across from Union Station near the Capitol complex. 

When an officer approached Merrell, he saw that he was holding “a black in color AR-style with a magazine inserted into the gun,” according to a charging document filed with the District of Columbia Superior Court. The gun was identified as a Diamondback Arms AR-Style Pistol, and inserted in the weapon was a 30-round high-capacity ammunition feeding device that contained 26 rounds, court documents show.

Merrell allegedly refused to comply with orders for him to step away from the gun, telling the officer, “For you to get this gun from me, you are going to have to kill me,” according to the filing. A second U.S. Capitol Police officer arrived on the scene and tased Merrell in the back after he again refused to lower his gun, law enforcement said.

U.S. Capitol Police arrest a suspect who was in possession of a firearm near the Capitol on Nov. 7, 2023.
U.S. Capitol Police arrest a suspect who was in possession of a firearm near the Capitol on Nov. 7, 2023.

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Officers responding to the incident then subdued Merrell and handcuffed him. The suspect stated, “Why didn’t you shoot me? You should have killed me,” according to the court document.

Capitol Police said they did not find any other weapons on Merrell. Police records show he has a warrant for probation violation out of Fulton County, Georgia. A check of Merrell’s criminal history revealed a March 2019 felony conviction for cruelty to children, the charging document states.

During Merrell’s arrest, law enforcement found a “suspicious package” on the bench where he had been sitting, which they determined was a bag belonging to him, according to the court filing. The authorities recovered a total of 78 rounds from the scene, which included 20 rounds of ammunition in a sealed box in Merrell’s bag and 30 rounds in an additional large capacity feeding device, court records said. 

Merrell told police during a recorded interview that he obtained the gun in Georgia and purchased the box of ammunition discovered at a pawn shop in the state. He said he traveled to Washington, D.C., by bus and spent Monday night sleeping at a Metro station, according to the charging document.

On Tuesday morning, Merrell loaded and charged the firearm, placed it under his sweatshirt and walked to the park, where he was stopped by Capitol police, he said, according to the filing. Merrell said he does not have a license to carry a pistol in the District of Columbia, court records show.

He faces nearly a dozen charges, including unlawful activities, felon in possession of a firearm, assault on a federal officer and carrying a pistol without a license. 

The U.S. Capitol Police said Tuesday that it’s unclear what Merrell was doing in Washington, but there was no ongoing threat.

“We have to make the Capitol secure,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters of the incident. “It is good that they found this person, but we are keeping a constant vigilance on security.”

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