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Chief Ramsey Issues Letter of Apology to Residents for Lorton Firing Range Mishap

Thursday, May 27, 1999
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey
Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC

To the Residents of Newington Commons:

On behalf of the entire Metropolitan Police Department, I extend my sincere apologies for the tremendous fear and confusion caused to you, your families and neighbors by the events of Monday afternoon. And I want to assure you that I will do everything possible to ensure that your community will never again be endangered by training operations at the MPDC firing range located in the nearby Lorton Correctional facility.

A preliminary investigation by the Fairfax County Police Department and the MPDC's Force Investigation Team has confirmed that all but one of the rounds fired into homes and vehicles in your community Monday afternoon did indeed come from the Lorton firing range. Officers from four departments—Fairfax County, US Capitol Police, Defense Protective Services and Andrew Air Force Base Security—were participating in a special weapons training exercise under the supervision of MPDC personnel. The rounds that were inadvertently fired into your community were the result of a severe and inexcusable lapse in judgment on the part of the supervisor, an MPDC sergeant, who was overseeing the training exercise.

To ensure that this type of mishap never happens again, I have ordered a thorough examination—not only of Monday's incident but also of the overall safety policies and procedures of the Lorton firing range. In the meantime, I have ordered that all live-fire exercises at the Lorton range be suspended until this investigation has been completed. As you may know, the firing range is scheduled to be closed eventually, as the entire Lorton complex is shut down. I will not resume live-fire exercises at this facility until I have been assured that all the necessary procedures and precautions are in place to protect the safety of the people using the facility and those who live near it.

I recognize that one letter of apology cannot erase the fears and doubts caused by Monday's very serious incident. Like you, I am thankful that no one was injured. Our Department is working closely with Fairfax County authorities in the ongoing investigation of this incident. We intend to convene a community meeting in the near future to update you on the investigation and to discuss our future plans for ensuring the safety of the firing range and the people, such as yourself, who live near it. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to call my office, at (202) 727-4218, if you have any additional questions or concerns.

Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police