Atlanta man slashes portraits, smashes glass at Gold Dome

By: - October 1, 2019 3:56 pm

A man used a flagpole Tuesday night to bash 15 decorative light fixtures and slash the portraits of two former governors, Marvin Griffin (L) and Ernest Vandiver Jr. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

A flagpole-wielding man who went on a rampage on the state Capitol grounds late Monday night injured two state police officers, slashed the portraits of two former Georgia governors and smashed more than a dozen light fixtures in the historic building.

Joshua Jordan Lemhouse, a 27-year-old Atlanta resident, was captured and taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where staff concluded he had cocaine in his system. He now faces six charges, including felony “interference with government property” and two counts of simple battery. Nothing inside the Gold Dome was stolen.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Marvin Griffin, Georgia governor 1955-1959. Pros: Paved 12,000 miles of rural roads, increased school funding and teacher pay, oversaw building of nuclear reactor at Georgia Tech. Cons: Staunch segregationist, left office under cloud of corruption[/perfectpullquote]

Lemhouse hit one of the officers in the neck and shoulder area with a flagpole that he found near the entrance of the Capitol. Both officers were taken to the hospital and treated for their injuries.

The episode started at about 11:30 p.m. when Lemhouse broke off the side mirrors of a patrol car, catching the attention of another officer who was patrolling the area and who then chased after Lemhouse.

Lemhouse then ran up the Capitol steps on Mitchell Street and smashed the glass on the second floor door to get inside. Flagpole now in hand, he used it to bash 15 decorative light fixtures and the portraits of two former governors, Marvin Griffin and Ernest Vandiver Jr.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Ernest Vandiver Jr., Georgia governor 1959-1963. Pros: Improved Georgia’s treatment of mentally ill, expanded ports and cleaned up corruption of his predecessor. Cons: Fought school desegregation and defended the county unit election system[/perfectpullquote]

When an officer who was on the first floor heard the sound of glass breaking, he ran upstairs and tried to stop Lemhouse – who then swung the flagpole at him.

As of noon Tuesday, crews were still cleaning up the last of the broken glass and assessing the extent of the damage throughout the building, said Morgan Smith-Williams, who is the Georgia Building Authority’s communications director.

The latter may take some time, said Smith-Williams, noting that even leaning up against the wrong thing in a more than 130-year-old building can cause harm. She said the authority has called on restoration experts to help repair the paintings of the 1960s- and 1970s-era governors.

A man smashed a window form the inside at the Georgia’s Capitol’s Secretary of the Senate office Tuesday night. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

The Secretary of the Senate’s office, where Lemhouse kicked in the door, was still in disarray midday Tuesday. Lemhouse turned over filing cabinets and smashed an exterior window in third-floor office.

State police officers tried to taze Lemhouse at this point to no effect. He then fled back down to the second floor, caused more damage to the rotunda and then broke through another glass door to escape. Officers were able to catch up with him on nearby Washington Street.

David Cook, the secretary of the senate, declined to comment Thursday. He called his office – a hot spot during the legislative session – a hazardous materials scene. Three boxes outside were marked “biohazard.”

“Thanks for letting us clean up,” Cook said to reporters who came to see the damage.

Otherwise, things were returning to normal at the state Capitol. The building opened at its normal time, and a legislative study committee meeting on seat belts was under way as crews continued the clean-up midday.

As for why Lemhouse picked Griffin and Vandiver’s portraits, the state Department of Public Safety concluded Lemhouse likely lashed out indiscriminately. If he had turned right instead of left, it could have just as well been former Gov. Herman Eugene Talmadge or temporary Gov. Melvin Thompson.

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Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.