Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … some guy sneaking up the side of the State Capitol dome.
Security cameras spotted an intruder on a cold Sunday night in October as he scrambled up a short ladder that leads to the very tip of the dome, 223 feet above the ground. The climber, a male in a gray hoodie, then slipped down to a lower level of the dome, ringed with carved stone eagles taller than the man himself. For the next several minutes, the newly-released security camera footage showed the shadowy climber as he slipped nimbly around and between the stone eagles, sometimes just a few feet away from exasperated Capitol security staff.
“An officer told the individual to come out,” according to the Oct. 21, 2012, incident report. “The individual took one step toward the officer and then fled to the south side of the dome.”
Who was that hooded climber? No one knows.
After a slow-speed foot chase around the dome, he slipped down the scaffolding set up by workers doing window repairs to the century-old building. Three state troopers attempted to intercept him before he slipped away.
The last camera shot showed him bounding down the scaffolding to street level, where he vanished into the night, possibly into a waiting car along University Avenue, authorities say.
The climber didn’t do any further damage to the Capitol’s crumbling facade. But the Capitol is in the midst of a massive renovation project that will likely leave it covered in scaffolding for years to come.
Authorities acknowledge that the vast network of scaffolding around the Capitol will continue to be a temptation.
Capitol security strongly urges fleet-footed urban climbers to resist the urge.
This might be the People’s House, but unauthorized trespassing on its exterior is still a misdemeanor offense — and the penalties increase if anyone is hurt trying to haul them off the eagles.
“It’s illegal, and more importantly it’s unsafe,” said Lt. Eric Roeske, spokesman for the State Patrol, which is in charge of security for the Capitol.
Roeske noted that officers had to climb out onto the narrow ledge around the dome in an effort to corral the climber last October.
He 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.
October was a bad month for state capitol scofflaws. Earlier in the month, Andrew Bishop, a 21-year-old from Minnesota, was charged with breaking into the Wisconsin State Capitol and passing out drunk on the roof.