Mother of man who shot himself after crashing car into US Capitol barricade blames football head trauma
The mother of the man who drove his car into a barricade at the US Capitol , fired a gun into the air and later killed himself as police closed in has said that he was struggling with brain trauma from playing football in his youth.
Tamara Cunningham, the mother of 29-year-old Richard Aaron York III, from Dagsboro, Delaware, told The Guardian that she believes that his high school football career led to him suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a condition some players attain following repeated blows to the head during practices and games.
“Something was going on for a while,” Ms Cunningham told the paper on Tuesday. “And it was progressively getting worse.”
CTE can only be confirmed by conducting a postmortem brain autopsy. The mother told the paper that she has requested one from the local coroner’s office as well as from a private physician.
Families have previously foreseen CTE diagnoses in football players or athletes taking part in other damaging sports when they spotted behaviour they considered aggressive or unpredictable.
The US Capitol Police said on Sunday “it is still not clear why he chose to drive to the Capitol Complex”.
York drove his car into a barrier at East Capitol Street and Second Street. The car “became engulfed in flames” while he was exiting the vehicle, police said.
He then discharged his gun multiple times into the air, prompting Capitol Police officers to respond.
Officers “were approaching the man when he shot himself,” a statement said. No one else was harmed in the incident.
“At this time, it does not appear the man was targeting any Members of Congress, who are on recess, and it does not appear officers fired their weapons,” police said earlier on Sunday.
The incident is under investigation by the DC Metropolitan Police Department.
Ms Cunningham told The Guardian on Tuesday that she doesn’t believe that her son had any political motivations for his actions.
“We’re just not that kind of family,” she said.
In 2012, York pled guilty to charges of domestic violence following police allegations that he choked and assaulted his pregnant girlfriend, Lehigh Valley Live reported.
Morning Call, a Pennsylvania outlet, reported that he pled guilty in 2020 to charges of assault and property damage after allegations from a roofing job co-worker that York attacked him at his residence.
The colleague is reported to have suffered face and head injuries. York received a sentence of seven months behind bars and two years of probation.
In April last year, Capitol Police officer Billy Evans was killed by a man from Virginia who crashed into a barricade at the congressional complex.
Capitol Police shot and killed a woman in 2013 after she crashed into a barrier at the White House and later sped down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Several media outlets reported in both of those instances that the individuals had mental health issues.
Ms Cunningham told The Guardian that the same was true for her son, who she said was taking medication to deal with the condition.
The mother told the paper how her son would make breakfast for his grandmother every day and she noted that they would often play cards together. She added that he would visit her and her fiancee on most weekends. The mother said he had a son of his own, a nine-year-old boy whom he would not see regularly but was extremely fond of.
“When he was functioning, he was a wonderful, wonderful person,” she told the paper .