Probe: Tactical squad ordered away from Navy Yard rampage
The officers tried to respond to the Navy Yard but could not even reach the command post there because of traffic snarls caused by emergency vehicles
By Eric Tucker
WASHINGTON — It was reasonable for officials to reroute a Capitol Police tactical squad away from the Washington Navy Yard rampage amid concerns about possible threats to the U.S. Capitol after the officers got stuck in traffic, according to a report released Friday that defends the decision.
The officers in the specially trained unit, which handles crises such as mass shootings, tried to respond to the Navy Yard but could not even reach the command post there because of traffic snarls caused by emergency vehicles, according to the two-page document. There were also no demands for additional Capitol Police resources beyond the teams that were already there and commanders were faced with "the potential of threats or secondary attacks" to the Capitol building, the report states.
The unit was directed to the Capitol more than a half-hour after the first reports of the attack.
"Everyone's intentions were the right intentions 'cause they're the type of people who want to go," Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said in an interview. "That's what they want to do. We respect that and appreciate that."
Dine called for a review into the response to the Sept. 16 shooting amid reports that a Capitol Police supervisor had directed the Containment and Emergency Response Team to stand down and not respond to the rampage. The Capitol Police Board, which oversees the agency, initiated the investigation at Dine's request and released a summary of a review team's findings on Friday.
Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer, who serves on the board, said at the time the investigation was announced that the reports, if true, would represent an "unbearable failure."
But he said Friday that the reality uncovered by a special review team was far more nuanced, and that the decision to recall the four-member unit made sense in light of the overall circumstances.
"It was reasonable to have them come back," he said.
Gainer, a former Capitol Police chief, said while he understood the inclination to second-guess the decision he did not think it was appropriate to speculate whether the unit would have made a difference if allowed inside the building. Tactical officers from multiple other law enforcement agencies also responded to the rampage and the gunman was killed during a police shootout.
"These are very fluid, fast-moving events and they're sort of multilayered," Dine said.
The Capitol Police is responsible for protecting congressional buildings as well as members of Congress and their families. But its units sometimes respond to emergencies away from the Capitol complex. On the day of the shooting, two motorcycle units deployed to the Navy Yard to help with traffic control, along with another team that helped protect the perimeter and a sergeant who served as a command post liaison, according to the report.
The gunman, Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old former Navy reservist and government contractor who worked at the Navy Yard, killed 12 people before being shot to death by police. The FBI has said he was experiencing delusions in the months leading up to the shooting, leaving behind writings indicating that he believed he was being bombarded by extremely low frequency radio waves.
The review team conducted dozens of interviews and evaluated radio transmissions and command center incident logs. Several other recommendations were made as part of the investigation, including improving communication between different Capitol Police units during an emergency.
The full report was not publicly released. Dine said in an email to the department that the report "will truly help our Department moving forward."
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