Slain Cops Remembered As Heroes
Slain Cops Remembered As Heroes
H. JOSEF HEBERT
Jul. 25, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) _ One was a shadow at the side of the congressman he was sworn to protect. The other spent long days monitoring _ and often helping _ tourists as they filed through an entrance of the U.S. Capitol.
The two police officers, killed by a rampaging gunman, were heralded Saturday as heroes felled in the line of duty.
President Clinton said the two veteran officers _ Jacob Chestnut, 58, and John Gibson, 42 _ ``laid down their lives for ... those they were sworn to protect.''
They were among the 1,250 members of the U.S. Capitol Police force, which protects members of Congress and patrols the Capitol and surrounding grounds.
Chestnut and Gibson both joined the force 18 years ago and Chestnut, an Air Force veteran, was planning to retire in a matter of months. Both were described as family men, each with three children.
Gibson, who grew up in Waltham, Mass., was a plainclothes officer assigned to Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, the No. 3 Republican in the House. As DeLay's security officer, he was always by the congressman's side.
``He was simply the finest man I have ever known, and he died so that my staff and the public and I could live,'' DeLay said Saturday, struggling to hold his emotions in check. DeLay called Chestnut ``one of the nicest and friendliest'' officers on the force.
DeLay said Monday's House session would be devoted to tributes to the slain officers and would include passage of a resolution in their honor.
On Friday afternoon Gibson was in DeLay's office on the first floor of the Capitol when he heard shots.
Opening the door, he confronted Russell E. Weston Jr., who already had shot Chestnut at the building's entry and according to police was chasing a woman down the hall. Gibson shoved the woman to safety, was shot and returned fire, hitting the gunman.
``The whole office believes he saved our lives,'' said Tony Rudy, a member of DeLay's staff, who had gotten to know Gibson.
Gibson moved to the Washington area from Massachusetts 18 years ago, but never lost his Boston accent and remained an avid fan of the Red Sox and Bruins. He married the niece of Rep. Joe Moakley, D-Mass., whom he had met in college.
Described as serious and ``a straight arrow'' about his job, Gibson also was known in his Virginia neighborhood as friendly, a lover of the outdoors and a ``fun guy at family parties.'' At Christmas time he dressed up as Santa Claus.
``He was always the life of the party, and the children loved him,'' recalled Mona Gibson, his aunt. ``He was very nice caring and always respectful.''
While Gibson's job was to guard one of Congress' GOP leaders, Chestnut's duties were less glamorous _ although just as important. He guarded the main entrance to the U.S. Capitol, where hundreds of tourists file through a metal detector each day to visit one of America's treasured shrines.
At his home in Fort Washington, Md., the Vietnam veteran loved to garden. Neighbors remembered the strapping six-footer as friendly and eager to help in community activities.
``He was a very nice man, very concerned about the neighborhood,'' said Eugene Lowe. Once a year neighbors could count on Chestnut and his wife knocking on the door, asking for contributions to the neighborhood association.
``We are shocked,'' said Wenyang Johnson, Chestnut's sister-in-law, who lives in the neighborhood as well. ``He was such a wonderful man.''