By Jennifer Brooks
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…some guy sneaking up the side of the Capitol dome.
State Capitol security cameras spotted someone scaling the 223-foot-high dome one evening last fall. Newly released footage shows a white man in a grey hoodie clambering up to the very top of the dome, then leading Capitol security on a low-speed chase around the giant eagles that glare down on University Avenue.
As Capitol police scaled up to intercept him, the intruder ducked behind the giant carved eagles and clamberd around the exterior of the dome, ducking in and out of camera range, peeking out from time to time to see if the coast was clear.
Exasperated state troopers split up, some guarding the way down, some clambering out onto the narrow ledge with the eagles in an effort to stop him before he fell and put a hoodie-shaped crater in the sidewalks around the historic building.
Eventually, the intruder spidermanned off the building the same way he spidermanned up -- using the scaffolding workers had put up during repair work on the century-old building's windows.
Scampering down the scaffolding with security in pursuit. He remains at large.
The climber didn't do any further damage to the Capitol's crumbling facade during his October visit. But the Minnesota Capitol is on the brink of a massive renovation project that will likely leave it covered in scaffolding for years to come.
For some, all that scaffolding might look tempting.
Capitol security strongly urges you to resist that temptation.
This might be the Peoples’ House, but unauthorized trespassing on its exterior is still a misdemeanor offense – and the penalties would increase if anyone is hurt trying to haul you off the eagles.
“It’s illegal, and more importantly it’s unsafe,” said Lt. Lieutenant Eric Roeske, spokesman for the Minnesota State Patrol, which is in charge of security for the Capitol, noting that officers had to climb out onto the narrow ledge around the dome in an effort to corral the intruder.
The climber might have been “drunk or just being foolish,” Roeske said. It is the first known incident of dome climbing at the Capitol, and he hopes, the last.
“What can start out as a joke, or just for thrills, can create a very dangerous situation for not only the person doing it but security officers and troopers who may have to respond,” Roeske said.
From the incident report, dated 7:20 p.m., Oct. 21, 2012:
“Capitol Security cameras observed a person climbing the scaffolding attached to the Capitol. Capitol Security officers responded and searched for the individual, eventually finding a white male in a gray hooded sweatshirt hiding under one of the eagle statues near the dome. An officer told the individual to come out. The individual took one step toward the officer and then fled to the south side of the dome. Officers lost sight of the individual; however, cameras caught the individual climbing down the scaffolding and dispatch directed the officers to the area. The suspect was able to evade officers and was thought to have been picked up by a waiting vehicle on University Avenue. Capitol Security officers and State Patrol troopers searched the area but did not locate the vehicle or the individual.