A unit of United States Capitol Police, the federal law enforcement agency assigned to protect U.S. Congress and its members, may have been nearby the Washington Navy Yard when the shooting occurred on Monday morning, sources are reporting. The 4-man unit of officers was reportedly “wearing full tactical gear and armed with HK-416 assault weapons” when a member of the Metropolitan Police Department, Washington D.C.’s main law enforcement agency, requested their assistance.
When Capitol Police members “radioed in to their superiors, they were told by a watch commander to leave the scene,” according to the BBC.
The Capitol Police force has concurrent jurisdiction with the Metropolitan Police Department in the area surrounding the Capitol. One member of the Capitol Police force, speaking anonymously to the BBC, however, “described a culture in which emergency responders are instructed to not extend themselves beyond the Capitol grounds for fear of discipline.”
The presence of Capitol Police forces near the Navy Yard has yet to be confirmed, but the department is investigating the accusations by revisiting Monday’s radio logs. A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department maintains that the allegations are “not true.”
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terry Gainer, the officer in charge of the Capitol Police department, expressed his concern about the incident. “It’s a very serious allegation and inference to indicate that we were on scene and could have helped and were told to leave,” Gainer told the BBC. “It crushes me if that’s the case.”
Still, members of the force speculate that they may have been able to neutralize the situation before it escalated. “Odds are it might have had a different outcome,” Capitol Police Officer Jim Konczos, overseer of the officers’ union, told the BBC.
If investigators find that the Capitol Police Department did have a unit present on the scene of the Navy Yard shooting, both the Metropolitan Police Department and the Capitol Police Department will need to provide an explanation for the lack of response.