FOX 5 EXCLUSIVE: DC police getting new, modern rifles in respons - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

FOX 5 EXCLUSIVE: DC police getting new, modern rifles in response to Navy Yard shooting

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An example of an M16 rifle that D.C. police officers were using while responding to the shooting at the Navy Yard An example of an M16 rifle that D.C. police officers were using while responding to the shooting at the Navy Yard
Emily Miller holds a Colt LE6920 rifle Emily Miller holds a Colt LE6920 rifle

FOX 5 has learned that D.C. police are getting new, modern rifles. It is part of the department changes after the Navy Yard shooting last September.

The first officers who rushed into Navy Yard were First District officers -- who only had old rifles too long to get through the doors and narrow cubicles where Aaron Alexis was hiding.

So special operations and other law enforcement agents took over the chase with shorter, modern rifles. But we have now learned that all police officers will be armed with the new rifles.

The Washington Navy Yard was a scene of terror on the morning of September 16th last year. Alexis snuck a shotgun into the military base and gunned down 12 unarmed civilian employees.

D.C. police led the charge searching for Alexis through Building 197. One officer, Scott Williams, was shot in each leg.

The horror ended after an hour and nine minutes. Special ops officer Dorian DeSantis came face-to-face with Alexis. DeSantis used his modern AR-15 to kill Alexis and end the murderous rampage.

"Everything was blind because the cubicles were so high,” said D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier. “DeSantis never saw Alexis. When they got to the end of the cubicles, he popped out from behind the cubicle and shot Officer DeSantis almost point blank in the chest … Literally, if he had not had his vest on, it would have been a deadly shot.”

D.C. police and other law enforcement agencies have been analyzing the Navy Yard to figure out what can be done better in the future.

"This incident taught us a lot too,” Lanier said. “We have recreated all our training and equipment and everything based on what we've learned from the Navy Yard."

The chief won't tell us specifics -- she says there is still an open investigation. And the action report is not yet public.

But FOX 5 has uncovered one key change has gone into effect -- the police bought 230 brand new rifles for patrol officers.

The first officers on the scene at Navy Yard were regular beat cops from the First District -- the Capitol Hill area.

Each district has a handful of officers who are trained and certified to carry rifles in their cars.

Those guys ran in Navy Yard with their standard issue rifle -- an M16 -- which are hand-me-downs from the military.

"Most of these rifles -- parts can be as old as 20 years,” said Officer Bernard Richardson of the police uniform and equipment board. “They were all military surplus. After 9/11, they were dispatched to us. Some of them were functioning and some of them weren't.”

The biggest problem with these guns is they are too long and they can't be collapsed. They were made for warfare -- not urban policing.

The guns couldn't have fit through the doors and narrow spaces in the Navy Yard office buildings.

Not only that, the rifles were manufactured to be automatic, but they were changed to fire only semi-auto for the police.

To top it all off, the police had to cannibalize these old rifles just to keep them functioning.

"They were taking parts from other weapons that were still viable and placing them to create one good weapon,” said Officer Richardson. “So it may have taken three or four bad weapons to make one good weapon."

Alexis bought his Remington 870 shotgun -- legally -- at Sharpshooters Small Arms Range in Lorton, Va. He passed two background checks -- the federal FBI and the state of Virginia.

Shotguns are long, so Alexis -- a Navy contractor -- made his gun tactical by cutting off the whole stock and part of the barrel so he could maneuver around the cubicles and narrow spaces while D.C. police carried the long M16s into Building 197.

Alexis also had a 9mm handgun, which he took off the security guard he killed.

Doug Harris, who works at Sharpshooters, explained why the long rifles put D.C. police officers in even more danger.

"If I come in with this rifle, it's too long so I can’t enter the door without lowering the barrel, so it puts me at a tremendous disadvantage,” said Harris. "With the M4, it's a much shorter weapon. I can keep the muzzle up, I’m on point and I can clear the room.”

So, D.C. police decided to replace the old guns with brand new rifles straight from the manufacturer. No more hand-me-downs.

According to Colt, the Metropolitan Police Department bought the model LE6920 rifles in February. They are 5.56 caliber and can only fire semi-auto.

Police have started training with them, but have not put it in the field yet.

The new Colt rifle which the Metropolitan Police Department bought is based on the M4. It has a collapsible stock so you can adjust it to your size. And a rather key feature is the barrel, which at 16.1 inches, is four inches shorter than their current rifles, which was relevant as they were going around close quarters and cubicles at the Navy Yard.

Special operations officers already had full tactical gear and weapons for the Navy Yard shooting.

But D.C. is the nation's capital and so it has unique challenges that every officer has to be prepared to face.

"A member is going to be in the tactical position,” said Officer Richardson. “He is going to have to do certain things. Whether it is the Navy Yard, whether it’s school shootings, whether it’s office-surrounded elements, they are going to be the first ones there. They are going to have to hold ground gained as efficiently as they can and the only way to do that is to be properly equipped and that's what these weapons allow us to do -- is be properly equipped when we enter a situation like that."

Officer Richardson told us that the officers did not get a say when Chief Lanier ordered these new rifles, but they are pleased with them.

Also, the police are testing out ear pieces to use instead of radios on their vests -- which would have alerted Alexis where the police were in that big building.

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