March 1, 1954: Congress Turned Into Shooting Gallery

Puerto Rican nationalists being held by police after shooting five members of Congress.

Four Puerto Rican nationalists entered the U.S. Capitol on March 1, 1954, four years after other nationalists had tried to assassinate President Harry Truman at Blair House.

The nationalists proceeded to the gallery and started shooting at the members of the House of Representatives, from the gallery. They started firing at the representatives and five of them were injured including Alvin M. Bentley (R-Michigan), Clifford Davis (D-Tennessee), Ben F. Jensen (R-Iowa), George Hyde Fallon (D-Maryland) and Kenneth A. Roberts (D-Alabama).

Lebron only pointed her pistol at the ceiling, since she didn’t want to hurt anyone but eyewitnesses said she had problems holding the gun steady and it jerked upward, while Figueroa’s pistol jammed, so Miranda and Flores were the only two shooters to hit the representatives.

The four nationalists shooting at the representatives were Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero and Flores Rodriguez.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower commuted their death sentences, with each assailant being sentenced to 70 years in prison. Figueroa Cordero was the first released in 1978 due to having terminal cancer. Ā President Jimmy Carter released the other three in exchange for Cuba releasing CIA agents being held in Cuba. However, Carter denied this which makes it a mystery why he would release the attackers after only serving 25 years of a 70 year sentence.

It is hard to believe that the four attackers could walk into the U.S. Capitol with firearms without being detected, but this was before it was common to have metal detectors in government buildings.

Cordero asked to be immediately executed after being brought to court, but that request was denied.

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Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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