Police investigate break-in at state Capitol

The Associated Press
Saturday August 04, 2001

SACRAMENTO — A 41-year-old Turlock man charged with breaking into the state Capitol with his bare hands Friday has reignited a debate over Capitol security. 

The incident comes eight months after a man with a history of mental problems drove his fully loaded big rig into the Capitol’s south steps, killing himself and causing severe damage to the south porch when his truck burst into flames. 

On Friday, Antonio Richard Mariscal drove up to the Capitol’s west steps about 6:30 a.m., parked his compact car on the lawn, pushed through a reinforced window using his arms and hands, then crawled inside, the California Highway Patrol said. 

He was immediately stopped by two CHP officers on duty inside. 

“He became somewhat combative,” said Capt. Troy Abney, but carried no weapons and made no threats. 

The incident lends more credence to proposals to install vehicle barriers around the Capitol, said Jon Waldie, a spokesman for the Legislature’s Joint Rules Committee that oversees security there. 

The CHP has made recommendations to the committee in the wake of January’s assault, and those will be considered when lawmakers return from their summer break, Waldie said. 

“It’s pretty similar to past reports. They’re going to lean pretty strongly to some type of security,” he said. 

However, the CHP stopped short of recommending the Capitol grounds be fenced off as was proposed previously when security was reviewed, Waldie said. Instead, the focus has been on heavy concrete flower planters that would block vehicles while allowing pedestrians free access. 

While vehicle barriers might have stopped Mariscal from driving on to the lawn, the incident also raises concerns about how Mariscal was able to use his bare hands to push reinforced glass out of its frame, Waldie said. 

And that, in turn, highlights questions raised by many lawmakers over how to boost security without interfering with the public’s right of access to their state Capitol. 

“If he’d waited a half-hour, he could have walked in,” Waldie said. The building opens to the public at 7 a.m. 

The rules committee’s consideration of new security measures has been delayed while legislators were preoccupied with the budget and energy crisis, Waldie said, but will likely be given new urgency by Friday’s break-in. 

Abney declined comment on Capitol security arrangements. 

He said Mariscal sustained minor cuts and was treated by a CHP paramedic at the scene. He was booked into Sacramento County Jail on charges of burglary and resisting arrest. No bail had been set pending a Tuesday court appearance. Mariscal made no statements to police. 

“It does appear he was acting alone,” Abney said. “We have no idea what his motivation was at this time.” 

Sgt. Mike Brock said there was no apparent connection to January’s incident. 

“There were no threats on anything like that – nothing even related to that incident that happened on the south steps (in January),” Brock said. 

Crime scene tape blocked the west steps Friday as workers cleaned up the broken glass. There was a board over the broken two feet wide-by-five feet tall window, and handprints on an adjacent unbroken window. 

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office and Department of General Services are continuing negotiations with Salt Lake City-based Dick Simon Trucking Co. and its insurance carrier over reimbursement for repairs from January’s crash, said department spokesman Robb Deignan. 

The company supplied the rig and employed the driver, Mike Bowers, 37, of Hemet. The state wants the company or its insurer to pay the estimated $13.5 million in repairs. 

That’s lower than the earlier estimate of $16.5 million. Deignan said there was less cost to clean up interior water damage, and a smaller area on the outside of the Capitol that needed sandblasting and replacement of the granite facade. 

A heavily damaged Senate committee room is likely to be reopened at month’s end, he said. The entire restoration is scheduled for completion in May.