President Praises Slain Officers

Before leaving for Norfolk, Virginia, Saturday morning President Clinton spoke at Andrews Air Force Base, praising the two police officers who died and those who rushed to help in Friday's dramatic Capitol shootout.


The shooting at the United States Capitol yesterday was a moment of savagery at the front door of American civilization. Federal law enforcement agencies and the United States Attorneys Office are working closely with the D.C. police and the Capitol police to ensure that justice is pursued.

Meanwhile, I would ask all Americans to reflect for a moment on the human elements of yesterday's tragedy. The scripture says, Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends. Officer Jacob "J.J." Chestnut and Detective John Gibson laid down their lives for their friends, their co-workers, and their fellow citizens -- those whom they were sworn to protect. In so doing, they saved many others from exposure to lethal violence.

Every day, a special breed of men and women pin on their badges, put on their uniforms, kiss their families good-bye, knowing full well they may be called on to lay down their lives. This year alone, 79 other law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice. Every American should be grateful to them for the freedom and the security they guard with their lives, and every American should stand up for them and stand against violence.

Officer Chestnut was a Vietnam veteran, a member of the Capitol Police for 18 years, just months away from retirement. Detective Gibson was a deeply religious man, beloved by his co-workers, and, being from Massachusetts, devoted to the Red Sox and the Bruins. Both leave behind loving wives and children, the affection of neighbors, friends, and co-workers, and the deep gratitude of those who are alive today because of their bravery.

In this one heartless act, there were many acts of heroism, by strangers who shielded children with their bodies, by officers who fanned across the Capitol, by Dr. Bill Frist, a renowned heart surgeon before his election to the Senate from Tennessee, who had just put down his gavel when he rushed to tend the injured. To all these and others who stood for our common humanity, we extend the thanks of our nation.

To the families of Officer Chestnut and Detective Gibson, nothing we say can bring them back. But all Americans pray that the power of a loving God and the comfort of family and friends will, with time, ease your sorrow and swell your pride for loved ones and the sacrifice they made for their fellow citizens. To Angela Dickerson, the young woman who was injured in the shooting, we extend our prayers and hope for your speedy recovery.

To every American who has ben shaken by this violent act, to the millions of parents who have taken your children through those very same doors, I ask you to think about what our Capitol means. All around the world, that majestic marble building is the symbol of our democracy and the embodiment of our nation. We must keep it a place where people can freely and proudly walk the halls of their government. And we must never, ever take for granted the values for which it stands or the price of preserving them.