Emory’s Indictment Shocks Her Fellow Officers

Posted December 7, 2007 at 6:17pm

When a federal grand jury indicted Capitol Police Officer Karen Emory last week for setting one of the Senate office building restroom fires, many of her fellow officers said they were taken by surprise.

After all, Emory has familial ties to the department. Her husband, Keith Emory, also is a Capitol Police officer, and her father-in-law, William Emory, serves as associate general counsel for the department, Capitol Hill sources confirmed on Friday.

“I won’t believe it until they prove it,” one officer said, adding that Emory, 36, seemed nice and was easy to work with.

Nevertheless, Emory is currently suspended from the Capitol Police, accused of setting fire to toilet paper inside a women’s restroom in the Dirksen Building on Nov. 2. If convicted, Emory could serve up to a year in prison.

As of Friday afternoon, no arraignment had yet been scheduled and Emory had not acquired an attorney, according to court officials. Her case has been assigned to Judge Ricardo Urbina.

Phone calls to Emory’s home in Waldorf, Md., went unanswered Friday afternoon. William Emory could not be reached at the general counsel’s office, and a call seeking comment was referred to the Capitol Police’s public information office.

Although she has been charged in the fire, Emory hasn’t been officially implicated in any of the other blazes that occurred in the Dirksen and Hart buildings during the fall.

Those fires, most of which burned in women’s restrooms, remain under investigation, police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said Friday.

No one was hurt in any of the blazes, only a few compelled evacuations, and all were quickly extinguished by Capitol Police or the District of Columbia Fire Department.

The saga began in the Hart building. Two blazes took place in women’s restrooms in Hart on Sept. 26 and 28. On Oct. 3, at least three fires broke out in women’s restrooms in Hart and Dirksen, and on Oct. 31, a fire was set in a stairwell in the basement of Dirksen.

The Nov. 2 fire in Dirksen in which Emory is implicated required an evacuation. According to police incident reports, Emory reported finding burned toilet paper in a restroom in a separate incident in the Hart Building at about 8 a.m., just a few minutes after it was reported.

Emory patrolled Senate office buildings, officers recalled. She joined the force in 2003, Schneider said.

Among many officers, there is disbelief as to how a fellow officer could have set even one of the fires, one said.

The department has remained tight-lipped about the investigation and has not given officers on the force much detail about what’s going on, another officer said. Several officers said they only found out about Emory’s suspension and indictment through media reports.

But there might be a reason for that. Keeping things quiet — and secluded from the rest of the force — was necessary to make sure an investigation of an officer was handled properly and fairly, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said.

“Very particular harm would be done if in fact this investigation was not of the first order of professionalism,” said Norton, who was personally briefed on the investigation by Assistant Chief Dan Nichols. “I’m convinced it has been.”

The department’s criminal investigation division, which handled the case, operates separately from patrol officers, Norton said, giving investigators full authority to do their job.

“My hat is off to the Capitol Police, because arsonists generally do not leave even the slightest trace of evidence,” Norton said. “This took expert investigation, and it took very careful investigation.”

Norton noted that although Emory is charged in only one of the fires, the U.S. attorney might decide to link her to the other fires during the trial. It isn’t necessary to prove a connection to every fire in order to get an indictment, Norton noted.

“I believe the U.S. attorney is going to be very careful because his burden of proof is very great,” Norton said, adding that she is “reserving judgment until the guilt of this officer has been proven.”