US Capitol gunman calls himself ‘a prophet of God’

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Larry Russell Dawson, 66, of Antioch , posted this photo on his church website before heading to Washington DC where he was arrested for pulling a gun at the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center on March 29, 2016. Photo from St. Luke's Community Church website.

Larry Russell Dawson, 66, of Antioch , posted this photo on his church website before heading to Washington DC where he was arrested for pulling a gun at the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center on March 29, 2016. Photo from St. Luke's Community Church website.

NASHVILLE —The Nashville-area man shot by police Monday (March 28) after allegedly wielding a gun at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center has had multiple brushes with the law in recent years, including in Washington, D.C., where he was arrested last fall after proclaiming himself “a prophet of God” inside the House of Representatives.

Larry Russell Dawson, 66, of Antioch is known locally as a onetime funeral director who lost his license, a Williamson County school bus driver fired for harassing a teenage girl and a self-styled church pastor who launched a fundraising campaign in the name of raising the federal minimum wage.

Dawson was transported to a Washington hospital after he was shot by U.S. Capitol Police. He was in stable but critical condition Monday night, according to The Associated Press.

USCP Chief Matthew Verderosa noted that Dawson had been known to frequent the Capitol grounds. He was arrested in October after disrupting proceedings in the House and was charged with assaulting a police officer and unlawful conduct on Capitol grounds, according to D.C. court records. He was released but never appeared in court. A bench warrant was issued Nov. 19 for his arrest.

The episode was the latest in a series of legal issues involving Dawson, dating back at least 20 years.

Dawson filed for bankruptcy in 1996 and between 2000 and 2012 accrued 16 tax liens and small-claims judgments against him, records show.

He was fired in spring 2001 after his arrest on harassment charges. Dawson, who was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of harassment in writing, wrote a letter on Aug. 8, 2003, professing his love for a teenage girl and his desire for her to become his wife and have his child, The Tennessean reported at the time. Dawson was arrested on an identical charge in March 2002 for sending the same girl more inappropriate letters.

A U.S. Capitol police officer guards the perimeter on Independence Avenue in front of the U.S. Capitol Building as visitors are evacuated after a shooting at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington on March 28, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Joshua Roberts *Editors: This photo may only be repubulished with RNS-CAPITOL-GUNMAN, originally transmitted on March 29, 2016.

A U.S. Capitol police officer guards the perimeter on Independence Avenue in front of the U.S. Capitol Building as visitors are evacuated after a shooting at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington on March 28, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CAPITOL-GUNMAN, originally transmitted on March 29, 2016.

In one of those letters, he claimed God told him to contact the girl and asked her to come live with him.

According to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation criminal records, Dawson was found “not guilty — reason of insanity” on two of three harassment charges, and acquitted on the third.

Still, the arrest would prove to haunt Dawson in the years that followed.

Dawson’s license expired June 30, 2004, and the state Board of Funeral Directors, Embalmers and Burial Services denied his reapplication for a license at least three times, including in 2008, 2009 and 2014, Walters said.

In each instance, Dawson was denied a license on grounds of moral character due to the incident when Dawson was a bus driver in Williamson County, Walters said.

“Apparently … Mr. Dawson wrote a letter to an underage girl telling her that God told him to have sex with her,” Walters said. “So the board denied him in those instances.”

During the 2014 funeral board hearing Dawson referenced his ministry and, once again, claimed he was doing what he believed God told him to do.

“Any time that a minister is being led by God, and he gives you a direct command to do something, it’s left up to you to do it or not to do it,” he told board members.

The church’s mission is described as having a foundation of the word of God, “We are building the kingdom of God on the preaching and teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

In a video posted on the website, Dawson holds up a sign and he’s “taking a trip to Washington, D.C.”

An effort to raise the minimum wage appears to be a key part of the church’s ministry, referring to it as “the movement.” Text and a video on the website also asked for donations for trips to D.C. to advocate for increasing the minimum wage.

“The movement now is to get the U.S. Congress to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.00. I have been to Washington, D.C. three (3) times this year pushing for a raise in the minimum wage,” the website said.

(Natalie Neysa Alund and Dave Boucher write for The Tennessean)

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  • Zachary

    People do all sorts of things in the name of God. I hear these words all the time in my line of work. Many who use these words truly believe their specific desire, action, or will is guided by the divine. In some cases, good comes out of such belief, but in other cases, such as the one mentioned in this article, bad choices and actions are done against the self and others. That being said, belief is what drives people, whether that is in some divine being or any other religious or secular belief system. In the end the belief system does not matter, it is the actions or inaction that matter.

  • MarkE

    As my sainted late father-in-law (a minister himself) once said to me, “Anyone can put up a shingle and call themselves a pastor or preacher. It’s what happens after that tells you if it’s in service to God or not.”

  • Jon

    Why would what happens afterward tell you whether it was from a god or not? Maybe this god is telling people to do things that are harmful? Maybe there area bunch of gods telling people different things? The fact is that people, when they “pray”, are listening to voices in their heads. Are those voices from some god or their own mind? We can’t know. Ammon Bundy prayed all night and Jesus told him to form an armed militia and takeover the wildlife refuge. Osama bin laden had been told by Mohammad to carry out 9/11. When I was Christian, I could “pray” and “hear god”. As an Atheist, I can still do the same thing. There is no reason to think that any of these “messages from god” are anything other than a person’s own thoughts. As long was we support Christian privilege and treat “I heard this from god” as if it meant something, we’ll continue to ask for incidents like this.

  • Abu

    When this story came out, the leftists were chewing at the bit that it would be a angry white conservative dude. They even “jumped the gun” and actually started to blame some white dude. Turns out it was a black leftist wacko who wants $15 an hour minimum wage. Notice how the story died.