One of the first teams of heavily armed police to respond to Monday’s shooting in Washington DC was ordered to stand down by superiors, the BBC can reveal.
A tactical response team of the Capitol Police, a force that guards the US Capitol complex, was told to leave the scene by a supervisor instead of aiding municipal officers.
The Capitol Police department said senior officials were investigating.
The decision had a lethal impact.
According to a Capitol Police source, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Washington DC’s main municipal force, told the Capitol Cert officers they were the only police on the site equipped with long guns and requested their help stopping the gunman.
When the Capitol Police team radioed their superiors, they were told by a watch commander to leave the scene, the BBC was told.
The gunman, Aaron Alexis, was reported killed after 9:00.
Several Capitol Police sources who spoke to the BBC asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal.
Capitol Police Officer Jim Konczos, who leads the officers’ union, said the Cert police train for what are known as active shooter situations and are expert marksmen.
“Odds are it might have had a different outcome,” he said of Monday’s shooting and the decision to order the Cert unit to stand down. “It probably could have been neutralised.”
Metropolitan Police deny the “stand down” allegation. But an investigation is underway. The Beeb must be highly confident of its sources to go ahead with a story like this.