Crime History, Dec. 8, 1982: Police shoot activist who threatened to blow up Washington Monument

On this day, Dec. 8, in 1982, United States Park Police shot and killed nuclear weapons protester Norman Mayer after he threatened to blow up the Washington Monument with a truckload of dynamite.

Norman Mayer threatened to blow up the Washington Monument before he was gunned down by U.S. Park Police.

Norman Mayer threatened to blow up the Washington Monument before he was gunned down by U.S. Park Police.

Mayer, 66, a drifter from Florida, tried to buy dynamite in Kentucky before moving to D.C. that summer. He stood in front of the White House, displaying large plywood signs and proselytizing to tourists.

On this day, Mayer drove a white van up to the foot of the monument and threatened to blow up the obelisk with 1,000 pounds of explosives stashed inside the vehicle unless the nation devoted massive attention to the dangers of the nuclear arms race.

Mayer kept eight tourists trapped at the monument for five hours before releasing them. He kept police at bay for another five hours, saying he had a remote control device that could ignite the explosives.

Mayer eventually jumped in his van and started to drive off, promising to become “a moving time bomb in downtown Washington.”

Police fired dozens of shots at the tires and engine block, one of which ricocheted and fatally struck Mayer in the head. No explosives were found in the van.

— Scott McCabe

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