Traffic prevented special police unit response to Navy Yard shooting

Story highlights

  • There were suggestions the U.S. Capitol Police special response unit was diverted
  • But internal police report said that was inaccurate
  • Snarl of emergency vehicles, commuter traffic actually prevented the unit from the reaching scene
  • Gunman killed 12 people on September 16 at historic Navy Yard
A traffic snarl outside Washington's Navy Yard -- not a tactical command decision -- prevented a special U.S. Capitol Police unit from responding at the scene of a mass shooting there in September, an internal police report found on Friday.
Twelve people were killed in the September 16 rampage by gunman Aaron Alexis, who was also killed during a shootout with other law enforcement officers.
The deployment disclosure came after some initial media reports said the Containment Emergency Response Team was one of the first on the ongoing shooting scene, then turned away at the command center, and subsequently pulled back.
"Initial reports of the actions of USCP personnel were inaccurate and failed to convey the nuanced complexity of such situations including the personal and professional impact on potential first responders," said a summary of the report by the U.S. Capitol Police Board.
The shooting at the Navy Yard facility several blocks south of the U.S. Capitol complex attracted a number of law enforcement, including some Capitol Police officers who "self-deployed."
The board's review team interviewed dozens of Capitol Police officers and examined written reports, radio transmissions, and command center incident logs.
The report did not deal with actions taken by other federal and local law enforcement, including military police officers.
Following some initial reports about the CERT's deployment, the local police union at the time had urged an investigation into the team's actions and orders.
"They were prepared to risk their lives to save the lives of the shooter's victims, but were prevented from doing so," labor committee Chairman James Konczos said in a statement a week after the shooting. "It is impossible to say how the outcome would have been different if the CERT team had been permitted to respond."
Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine then ordered the police board review team to look into the allegations the special response team was diverted from the shooting scene.
"Because of traffic gridlock caused by both emergency vehicles and commuter traffic the CERT unit was unable to reach that incident command post," said the report. "The CERT unit then moved closer to the Capitol, increasing its flexibility to respond as needed at either the Capitol or the Navy Yard."
Officials had said there was initial concern the Capitol might become a secondary target, promoting an increased security presence there.