On Friday afternoon, violence again shook the U.S. Capitol when a motorist rammed his car into a manned barricade, hitting two police officers. One of those officers, a man who spent 18 years guarding our most sacred democratic institutions, gave his life.
That man was Billy Evans, a North Adams native and a member of the Capitol Police’s first responder’s unit. The Drury High School grad loved being a dad and carried his Capitol Police badge everywhere out of pride, according to those who knew him. He was 41.
By Saturday, officials in the Berkshires and beyond offered their solemn praise: “A great guy who wanted to serve his country,” said Jason LaForest, a North Adams city councilor and childhood friend of Mr. Evans; “a hometown hero,” said U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who represents the Massachusetts 1st Congressional District; “a patriot, and a beloved father and friend,” said Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey.
Mr. Evans will be remembered by our community and a grateful nation as all of these things. When it was required of him, he exemplified how everyday people can do extraordinary things, like vigilantly defend the seat of our democracy and those within — even when the personal cost is mortally steep. He was a protector who for nearly two decades woke up to work a job that any given day might demand the ultimate sacrifice in service of others, and he did it proudly.
While the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was politically driven, investigators have so far found a murkier picture in the motive behind Friday’s attack. The driver, Noah Green, was shot dead after police said he exited his vehicle and lunged at them with a knife. He had been suffering from delusions and suicidal ideation, according to an official familiar with the investigation. Mr. Green’s social media history also suggests he was becoming radicalized by the Nation of Islam, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as a hate group based on its leaders’ racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
While more details will likely emerge, Friday’s events appear to offer yet another tragic example of the grave dangers sparked by polarization and fanned by the nation’s inequitable, ill-equipped system for mental health crisis response.
Mr. Evans and his family did not deserve this, and we join the greater Berkshire community in mourning the loss of a native son to such senseless violence. Through his patriotic duty, Mr. Evans has taken on a debt that can never be repaid. His legacy is a credit to the service of all the women and men who stand sentinel at the heart of our republic — and sometimes bleed for it.