Before landing a gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn Wednesday, Doug Hughes wrote about his intentions and the reasons behind them.
“The point of the flight is to spotlight corruption in DC and more importantly, to present the solution(s) to the institutional graft,” the 61-year-old Florida postal carrier wrote in an online post titled “Your Pilot.”
“My flight is not a secret,” the post says. “Before I took off, I sent an Email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The letter is intended to persuade the guardians of the Capitol that I am not a threat and that shooting me down will be a bigger headache than letting me deliver these letters to Congress.”
Hughes’ friend Michael Shanahan told CNN that Hughes called him Wednesday morning and told him to check out the website.
Although the post is not signed, he lists an email address of “email@example.com,” and the information in his self-description matches information about Hughes in public records.
He refers to having multiple children — the youngest an 11-year-old daughter — and grandchildren as well.
It’s unclear exactly when the post published. Shanahan told CNN that when he searched for the site Wednesday morning, he was unable to find it.
“The purpose of it was to call attention to the United States concerning our campaign finance laws, or the lack thereof,” Shanahan told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.
In his gyrocopter, Hughes took off from Maryland and traveled through restricted airspace over Washington, landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. Inside the small personal aircraft he had letters for every member of Congress urging campaign finance reform.
“There’s no need to worry — I’m just delivering the mail,” Hughes wrote in his post at thedemocracyclub.com.
The incident shut down the Capitol for part of the day.
Hughes’ main purpose “was not so much to alert Congress to something they already know, but to make a statement, so that America would take notice,” Shanahan said.
The two men together run a website and nonprofit corporation called The Civilist Papers, which focuses on such issues, Shanahan said.
In his post, Hughes wrote of his time spent in the Navy and described his family.
Although he did not mention it in the post, one of Hughes’ sons committed suicide 2 ½ years ago at the age of 24, the Tampa Bay Times reported. “Something changed in me,” Hughes told the paper. Public records show Hughes had a son named John Joseph Hughes who died.
“He told us that he felt like his son did something stupid, but he had made a point,” Ben Montgomery, the Tampa Bay Times reporter who broke the story of the gyrocopter flight, told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “He learned a lesson out of that. And it was: If you want to make a point, you’ve got to do something big, as sad as that seems.”
“He’s been thinking about this for 2.5 years. He’s pictured every scenario you could possibly imagine,” Montgomery said.
Shanahan said Hughes mentioned the idea when the two were brainstorming a couple of years ago. Having grown up in Washington, Shanahan opposed the idea. “I told him that, no, that was an insane plan because the chances are he was going to get killed.”
“Doug is like a pit bull when he gets an idea,” Shanahan added. “He’s very stubborn. And he finds ways around it. … The word got out because he was telling people of his idea. And the Secret Service heard of it. So, they interviewed the two of us. And after that, he said he was going to sell his copter and figure out something else to do. But then I noticed he did not sell this copter.”
When Hughes called Shanahan on Wednesday morning, Shanahan said he did not try to talk Hughes out of the plan, but “he was talking real quick, and I didn’t know exactly what he meant by a lot of things.”