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Posted on Feb 10, 2009 in Strange Congress

Strange Congress: 1954, Puerto Rican Nationalists Gang Shoot Up the House of Representatives

In this image taken moments after the shooting, (from left foreground) House Pages Bill Goodwin, Paul Kanjorski, and Bill Emerson carry a stretcher bearing a wounded Member to a waiting ambulance. Photo from the Office of the Clerk.

In this image taken moments after the shooting, (from left foreground) House Pages Bill Goodwin, Paul Kanjorski, and Bill Emerson carry a stretcher bearing a wounded Member to a waiting ambulance. Photo from the Office of the Clerk.

On March 1st, 1954 the United States Capitol was under attack and five Members of Congress were shot.

The attackers, Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero, and Irving Flores Rodríguez, displayed a Puerto Rican flag before shooting. The four were part of a Puerto Rican nationalist gang that tried to assassinate President Truman in 1950.

They opened fire from the visitor’s gallery of the House of Representatives. After shooting over 30 rounds at 240 Representatives, the four Puerto Ricans wounded five members: Alvin Bentley of Michigan, Ben Jensen of Iowa, Clifford Davis of Tennessee, George Fallon of Maryland, and Kenneth Roberts of Alabama. All five survived.

Future Representatives Bill Emerson of Missouri and Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania were among a group of Pages who helped to evacuate wounded Representative Alvin Bentley on a stretcher.

Currently representing Pennsylvania’s 11th District, Congressman Kanjorski (D) was 16 at the time of the shooting. In his hill office he has a framed newspaper with a picture of him and the other pages assisting the wounded Members of Congress.

In the aftermath of the shooting, the backs of the chairs on the floors of both the House of Representatives and Senate chambers are now bullet proof – and the capitol police threw in some medal detectors too.

Click here to watch a two minute newsreel about the incident.

This post is part of a weekly series on DCRepublican.com, “Strange Congress,” dedicated to educating Americans about the parts of Congress they may not have learned in school. To subscribe to only the Strange Congress feed, click here.