Doug Hughes' close friend and co-worker, Mike Shanahan, said today that the Ruskin mailman is not a terrorist and did not mean any harm with his protest.
And just hours before Hughes landed in Washington, Hughes' friend said he called a Secret Service agent to notify him of the possibility of the gyrocopter flight.
"He's not a suicide bomber, he's a patriot," said Shanahan, 65, of Apollo Beach. The whole stunt centers around Hughes' effort to change campaign finance laws, "or the lack thereof," according to Shanahan.
About a year ago, Shanahan said, Hughes told him of the idea to deliver letters to legislators by gyrocopter. Not long after, they were both questioned by a Secret Service official in Florida, he said. Wednesday morning, Shanahan said, Hughes called his friend and said he was in Washington, ready to take off.
He passed along the website on which he would livestream his flight, but Shanahan, not adept with computers, could not find it.
So, he said, he pulled out the phone number he had saved from the Secret Service agent he spoke to months ago. He dialed. No answer, but he said he left a message. No call back. He still was not certain if the protest was actually going to happen.
"I didn't want to get all of D.C. in an uproar and it turn out he was just practicing or something or he was just pulling my leg," Shanahan said.
Though Hughes was arrested, Shanahan said he was relieved his friend was alive.
"I was scared to death they were going to kill him," Shanahan said. "My thanks goes out to whomever it was who decided not to pull the trigger."
The Capitol Police were there waiting for Hughes when he landed, arrested him without too much trouble, and took him and his gyrocopter into custody.
Your quote of the day from the Tampa Bay Times:
Richard Burns, 27, who said he works for a marijuana lobby group in Washington, stood in wonder and solidarity.
"I don't know whatever it was he was doing but I support him."
Cops and 'copters.