Congress

Capitol Police weapon left unattended in Capitol bathroom, again

Latest incident recalls rash of similar ones in 2015

A Capitol Police lieutenant left his service weapon in a bathroom Monday night and the unattended gun was discovered later by another Capitol Police officer. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A U.S. Capitol Police lieutenant left his service weapon in a bathroom Monday night and the unattended gun was discovered later by another Capitol Police officer.

After the House adjourned on Monday, Lt. Mike Byrd left his Glock 22 in a bathroom in the Capitol Visitor Center complex, according to sources familiar with the incident. Byrd is the commander of the House Chambers section of the Capitol Police and was on the job Tuesday and Wednesday.

Byrd addressed the incident at Tuesday morning’s officer roll call and, according to sources, told fellow officers that he “will be treated differently” because of his rank as a lieutenant. It was not clear what exactly the lieutenant meant by the comment. 

Unlike a gun with a traditional safety, a Glock will fire if the trigger is pulled — making the discovery of an unattended gun in the Capitol complex particularly concerning.

Capitol Police said a service weapon was discovered “during a routine security sweep” Monday. Once the weapon was secured, the department began an immediate investigation into the matter, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki.

“The Department takes these matters very seriously, and has a very thorough process to investigate and review incidents such as these, and holds personnel accountable for their actions,” Malecki said in a statement. “Following the investigation’s conclusion, appropriate actions will be taken in accordance with the Department’s official policies and procedures.”

This is not the first time that a case like this has come to light and under investigation in recent years. In 2015, there were a rash of Capitol Police service weapons left behind in inappropriate places.

  • A member of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s security detail left his Glock and magazine stuffed in the toilet seat cover holder of a Capitol Visitor Center bathroom stall in January 2015, where a CVC worker found the gun.
  • A member of Speaker John A. Boehner’s dignitary protection team left a loaded firearm in the bathroom of Ohio Republican’s office suite in March 2015, where a 7- or 8-year-old child visiting the Capitol with his parents found the weapon.
  • A third Glock was found in April 2015 by custodial staff cleaning the Capitol Police headquarters building on D Street Northeast.

The pattern led to heightened concern about the department charged with protecting one of the world’s most important and frequently visited complexes, with law enforcement officials pledging that the Capitol Police’s Office of Professional Responsibility and its independent inspector general would review the incidents and report findings and recommendations to the Capitol Police Board.

At the same time, Capitol Police launched its own probe of who leaked a photo of one of the guns left in the toilet seat cover dispenser in the CVC bathroom

In the wake of those inquiries, at least one sergeant in the Capitol division, allegedly in retribution for a leak related to Roll Call’s reporting that year of the three incidents, was suspended. 

So, how often do officers leave their guns unattended around the Capitol complex? The answer is unknown because Capitol Police are not required to disclose such incidents.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House Administration Committee, said lawmakers and staff on the panel were not made aware of the incident before Roll Call inquired about it.

“We had not been advised,” the California Democrat said Wednesday. Her panel has oversight responsibility for the Capitol Police.

After learning about the situation from Roll Call on Tuesday, Lofgren said House Administration was in communication with the Capitol Police and “expressed the expectation that in the future we will be notified of such incidents.”

Other panels with oversight of the Capitol Police force were also not alerted to the unattended weapon.

Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, chairman of Senate Rules and Administration, was also not aware of the incident Tuesday. 

Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan, who chairs the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee that determines funding levels for Capitol Police, learned about it Tuesday when Roll Call inquired about the case.

Lofgren heard from the department that Byrd’s case was referred for internal investigation, a move she described as “proper.”

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.From the archives: 20 years ago, a deadly shooting in the Capitol changed life on the Hill forever

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