US Capitol Police arrested a man Friday after officers found an unregistered gun and ammunition in his vehicle when he attempted to present what the department described as an “unauthorized” inaugural credential at a security checkpoint, according to CNN.
However, the man who was arrested — a Virginian named Wesley Beeler — said Saturday he was merely on his way to work and that his arrest was caused by what he called an “honest mistake.”
The arrest occurred after Beeler was stopped at a security checkpoint, roughly half a mile away from the Capitol area. Beeler reportedly attempted to pass through the checkpoint using an unauthorized inauguration credential, and when officers checked a list of people allowed to be in the area, he wasn’t on it.
After police stopped him, they reportedly searched his car and found a handgun, as well as 509 rounds of handgun ammunition and 21 shotgun shells. The New York Times and CNN reported that Beeler was asked whether he had a weapon in the vehicle, and that he told police he had a loaded Glock pistol in the truck’s center console. His truck also reportedly had multiple gun-related bumper decals.
“Beeler is charged with carrying a concealed weapon, possessing an unregistered firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition and possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device,” NBC Washington reports. The gun Beeler had was not registered in DC, according to NBC Washington; in the District, possession of an unregistered firearm is illegal and subject to penalty.
On Saturday, Beeler’s father told the Times his son was working on security with Capitol Police. An anonymous federal law enforcement official said he was a contractor and that his credential was not fake, according to the paper. Beeler was authorized to have a firearm for his security work, but the gun was not registered in Washington, DC, the Times reported.
After his release Saturday, Beeler told the Washington Post he’d neglected to take his firearm out of his vehicle because he had been running late for work; he also said he works with MVP Protective Services and that the company gave him the inauguration credentials that Capitol Police rejected.
“I pulled up to a checkpoint after getting lost in DC because I’m a country boy. I showed them the inauguration badge that was given to me,” Beeler said, adding, “I don’t know what the DC laws are. It still comes back on me, but I’m not a criminal.”
The arrest comes as security in Washington, DC, ramps up in anticipation for the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Normal inauguration security has been even more robust than usual in the wake of the violent attack of the Capitol on January 6. As Vox’s Alex Ward reported, as many as 25,000 National Guard members will be stationed in Washington for the event, in addition to thousands of police and Secret Service members.
The Secret Service has also worked with local officials to facilitate a large number of street closures, according to the Washington Post, dividing the area around the White House, National Mall, and the Capitol into “red” and “green” zones. In the red zones, which encircle federal buildings and national monuments, traffic is limited to authorized vehicles; in the green zones surrounding these red zones, resident and business traffic is allowed.
Law enforcement officers have been on high alert for additional violence after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol in a mob attack on the building that led to five deaths. The FBI has also raised warnings about potential demonstrations at state capitols and the US Capitol leading up to Inauguration Day.
Officials are looking back as well: Four House committees have now opened an investigation into why security failed to block rioters from breaking into the Capitol, as Vox’s Aaron Rupar reported. Through the checkpoints and troop presence, law enforcement hopes to prevent a similar attack from happening again.