Remembering the 12 people killed Sept. 16, 2013

Lack of Access to Surveillance Cameras Hindered D.C. Police Response to Navy Yard Shooting

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    NEWSLETTERS

    D.C. investigators took a long look at how everyone responded when a man started killing people at the Washington Navy Yard. Their new report reveals some shocking problems and could lead to changes in the D.C. police department. News4's Jackie Bensen reports. (Published Friday, Jul 11, 2014)

    An internal District of Columbia police report on the response to the Washington Navy Yard shooting says officers were hindered because they couldn't access live surveillance-camera footage of the shooter.

    Military contractor Aaron Alexis killed 12 civilian workers at the Navy Yard's Building 197 in September 2013 before he was fatally shot by police. The Metropolitan Police Department released its 83-page After Action Report on the shooting Friday.

    Navy Yard Report: D.C. Police Couldn't Watch Surveillance Video

    [DC] Navy Yard Report: D.C. Police Couldn't Watch Surveillance Video
    A new report reveals D.C. police lacked a critical piece of information in their search for the Navy Yard gunman. Tisha Thompson reports. (Published Friday, Jul 11, 2014)

    The contract security guard who was monitoring the surveillance videos locked the door to the control room and didn't contact law enforcement, the report says. That prevented police from tracking Alexis' movements in real time or ruling out reports of a second shooter.

    "While we were searching the building, yes, those cameras would have been beneficial to us if we had access to them, and the lack of access to the internal cameras is specifically why we thought there was a second shooter," Police Chief Cathy Lanier told News4.

    The report also said Metropolitan Police Department officers were delayed in getting to the scene because some Navy Yard employees called an internal emergency communications number instead of 911 and because officers couldn't get through locked gates when they arrived. That's because the base personnel working at the entrances had followed emergency protocol to lock the gates and respond to the shooting, the report said.

    Equipment challenges were also detailed by the report, and the department wrote it is addressing those.

    Once officers entered the building, a blaring fire alarm pulled by an evacuating worker or security officer was an “ongoing distraction” and made it difficult to determine where shots were being fired from and hear radio communications, the report said. The police department says it is in the process of getting all of its members’ earpieces, which will allow officers to better hear communications in loud environments. The report said one officer also believes his radio, which was not attached to an earpiece, may have given away his location as he chased after Alexis, a situation earpieces would prevent.

    Police are also obtaining additional weapons. Many years ago, police departments across the country began to acquire semi-automatic rifles to respond in situations where they might be out-gunned by suspects, the report said. But maneuvering in the narrow hallways of Building 197 while armed with a long rifle was a challenge, the report said. The department wrote it is now getting shorter-barrel rifles and including close-quarter maneuvers in training.

    The report also stressed the importance of having neighboring law-enforcement agencies conduct collaborative training exercises as well as conducting exercises in many different locations including schools, hotels, hospitals and also military bases. Military bases have often been excluded from training, the report said, even after the shooting at Fort Hood in 2009 where a gunman killed 13 people.

    “Police departments may hold the mistaken belief that the personnel working within gated military installations in the United States, such as the Navy Yard, are heavily armed and capable of defending against threats. The truth, however, is that the majority of the individuals working on military bases are not armed,” the report said.

    Before the shooting, training between the city's police force and their counterparts at the Navy Yard was “minimal,” the report said. Lanier said the Navy Yard shooting is an example of why local law enforcement agencies and military installations must coordinate and train together.

    "We never did an active shooter training or drill inside of the base walls I think because we all made the assumption that because it was a military base, everybody was armed," Lanier said.

    The report recommends that large gated complexes put "go bags" containing maps, floor plans and access key cards in places where first responders can get to them immediately.

    It also notes the MPD plans to create a 24-hour equipment truck containing things like ballistic shields, shorter barrel rifles, vests and helmets because of the fact that many patrol officers are now on foot, bicycles or motorcycles with limited space to store tactical gear.