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Park Police Arrest Men Who Brought a Loaded Submachine Gun to a Playground in National Capital Parks-East


Uzi submachine guns come in various models, including mini and micro. This one is a Model B conversion with .22 kit. Photo by Cortland via Wikipedia.

I just got off the phone with Sergeant Robert Lachance, Public Information Officer at National Capital Parks-East. This item he submitted for the NPS Morning Report had caught my attention:

Officers Scott Brecht and Jason Omo were on patrol of River Terrace [a picnic area in Anacostia Park ], just after 1 a.m. on August 21st to check into complaints of illegal activities there from park neighbors. They came upon two people in the park’s playground area. Evidence indicated that they were involved in illicit behavior. The pair then began walking in the direction of the officers. The officers checked them out, then discovered an Uzi submachine gun in the place they’d just left. The weapon was loaded and the selector switch was set to full auto. Both were arrested and charged with weapon offenses and other violations.

Officer Lachance explained that even in the context of National Capital Parks-East, where dealing with weapons violations is a far from rare occurrence, this particular one was pretty unusual. Why these two men toted such potent ordnance into a park playground in the middle of the night is apparently not yet a matter of public record. However, it seems likely that the arrest of this pair and the seizure of the Uzi averted a potentially lethal incident.

The PIO added that this incident is an example (albeit extreme) of the kind of work that Park Police officers are compelled to do in National Capital Parks-East. The various urban parks in this unit of National Capital Parks contain numerous playgrounds, picnic areas, athletic fields, and other facilities nestled within or very close to residential neighborhoods. Much effort is put into community relations and making people aware that the Park Police, which functions pretty much the way a regular police force does, is there “to serve and protect.”


Mr. McDonald needs to get a clue, I was born and raised in SE part of DC, The poorest sections of any town have a choice become good citizens
or follow theirs peers into drugs, stealing, robbing at gunpoint, gangs, murder, rape and whatever feels good. That has not changed because
people loke Mr. McDonald coddle them and make excuses for them. That is why we must defend ourselves especially in DC. By restricking guns
you played right into the evil doers hands. They have very little to worry about. Same thing happend in Morton Grove, Il where they banned weapons
of any kind. Crime escalated to new levels. READ MY LIPS: THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT LAWS! make all the laws you want and me and people like me are the only one who it will effect. It is impossible for the police to protect the citizens, that is not their job. Their job is to investigate and bring to justice anyone who breaks the law. Until they break the law, they are powerless to help you. Canada, England all have real gun control laws and
they still have a considerable amount of crime. The difference is the citizens there do not have a chance to survive, their government took that right
away from them. Whenever a war breaks out, their is a reason why the enemy goes house to house taking all guns, they do not want you to defend yourself. For a good example see the movie "Red Dawn". My guess is when the poor can steal illigal fully automatic weapons this is not to rob Joe Blow on the street, they are into some serious drug or human trafficking and backed by larger crime organizations with making a lot of money.
They have this kind of weapon to kill not scare who there aimed at. Not the kind of people you want to coddle and make excuses for. People need
to be made responsible fo their actions. Unill you get that nothing will change for the better.

How come the NPS arrests people like this (which they should) and allows things like what goes on a Fire Island National Seashore (see below). Aren't these actions crimes? Should the NPS be looking the other way and letting this happen in view of visitors, including kids, in a national park?

FINS Citations Spark Concern, Even Outrage
Written by Michael K. Lavers
Sunday, July 06, 2008

With the height of the all too-short summer season less than a week away, the news of possible arrests inside the Meatrack, a strip of beach between Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines that has long been a popular cruising spot for gay men, sent shock waves through the two hamlets. The Fire Island National Seashore [FINS], which maintains jurisdiction over the Meatrack, also known as the Carrington Tract, was quick to point out its rangers made no arrests. It did confirm to the News, however, that they cited two people for disorderly conduct on June 15. Rangers restrained one of these men after he allegedly threw a substance into the weeds and attempted to run away. They cited him for possession of a controlled substance.

Three additional people received citations for disorderly conduct on June 21 for allegedly engaging in sexual activity within view of the trail. FINS spokesperson Paula Valentine categorically denied that any raids or targeted policing of gay men inside the Meatrack motivated these citations. She said the rangers issued them while on what she described as routine patrols—although the first two were issued during an orientation tour for new FINS seasonal staffers.

"They're there to protect resources and protect people," Valentine said. "If they come across people engaged in activities that are inappropriate for a public place, they are going to have to respond to them."

She further noted FINS received additional funds from the National Parks Service to put more rangers on the beach this season. The seashore has also used this money to provide lifeguards on Barrett Beach, additional canoe and guided programs at both Watch Hill and the Sunken Forest and to resurface the boardwalk at Sailors Haven.

FINS again defended its rangers' actions. "Park rangers check for litter and vandalism and impacts to wildlife," according to a statement released to journalists after a number of gay bloggers and Web sites began to report on what allegedly took place. "Park rangers are also there to provide first aid and emergency medical services. But when an illegal activity is encountered, they are obligated to do their jobs as federal law enforcement officers."

The citations, which many in both the Pines and the Grove initially thought were arrests, sparked concern and even anger among a number of local residents. The Suffolk County Police Department arrested dozens of gay men during raids in the 1960s on sodomy, indecent exposure and other charges. Local activism eventually stopped these Meatrack incursions, but the recent citations brought the issue back to the forefront for some. "For 40 years, [things have] been running smoothly here," East End resident Philip Otten told the News on a recent Tuesday night at Island Breeze in the Grove. "People come here because of the freedom."

Mid-week patrons at Low Tea and Sip n' Twirl in the Pines also discussed the citations—and resulting hubbub—as they enjoyed their beers and cocktails. "It's absolutely frustrating," one Pines resident, who identified himself as Andy, said. "This is an adult island. This is an island about non-censorship. People want to be free."

FINS Acting Superintendent Sean McGuinness met with members of both the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association and the Cherry Grove Property Owners Association to address local concerns. CGPOA President Larry Lane said McGuinness stressed to him "the issue is resolved" and "we should not have any further problems."

"I'm satisfied for the moment," Lane said. "We're hoping there will be no further problems."
Valentine further stressed FINS will continue to work with both FIPPOA and CGPOA to respond to any further concerns. "The key thing is mutual respect on both sides, from every aspect," she said.

As a follow up on crime statistics, I was just checking them out for this year. A quick glance of the numbers shows that more homicides have happened in Police District 7, which is Anacostia, than any of the other districts. Property crimes are higher in some of the other police districts. Even if crime rates were lower, my point would have been the same. You can't talk about any kind of crime in this park and this place without talking about - it's not a unique kind of event that can be abstracted from the neighborhood or the city's context.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Shaw is gentrified (my friends in Proposition One - the anti-nuclear vigil at Lafayette Park in front of the White House - can tell you that by the rapid increase in property taxes that they can't afford to pay) and the Benning Road / East Capitol Street area isn't far behind. As the H Street corridor has become overrun with new businesses and as Capitol Hill expands to the east toward RFK, things change - though not the crime. Actually, as far as crime rates, it depends what you look at. The highest number of robberies, for instance, in DC happen in NW neighborhoods, 2 of which no one would expect given the number of yuppies living in them (Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, and rapidly gentrifying Columbia Heights are the three neighborhoods with the highest number of muggings). But, Anacostia - especially Ward 8 (Marion Barry's ward) is certainly the poorest ward in the city. The idea that someone has a submachine gun in the park in Anacostia wouldn't really surprise anyone.

But, no, Ted, this isn't an issue that's reducible to its face value. It's simply an accident that it's a story of guns in a park in this case. There is no real boundary in DC between parks and non-parks, and so no real boundary where they appear and don't appear and the reasons why. The story gets at that somewhat by noting the way neighborhoods and parks overlap somewhat (and this park unit is actually more geographically definable than some in DC - but it never matters; take Rock Creek Park, which cuts the NW of the city in half - it's still an impossibly blurry line from the ongoings of the city itself, especially as it must be crossed constantly just to get from one part of NW to another part. You simply cannot grasp or discuss this story without talking about the context of this city, of these people, and what brings them there.

This is a minor story in the DC world; it's a complete non-story in the parks world, except to highlight that the national parks run so many of the parks in DC, so much so that the only question of relevance when an arrest is made is what jail you have to go find them at. Gun regulations in the park would do nothing to change this story; removing the park boundary would do nothing. All it would change is the location of the jail and what uniforms are doing the arresting - not a particularly interesting discussion. Of course, some will talk about how this is evidence that the park units might be stripped off, especially in the unique environment of DC where the parks are essentially city parks run by NPS. Okay, sure, whatever ... but highlighting this instance should point us to different questions, even on a national parks site. Or, are we that vacuous in the way we consider stories? If we are going to talk about a crime in Anacostia, we have to talk about the world that makes up National Capital Parks-East. That's the ecosystem, much the way that buffalo, bears, wolves, and lodgepole pines make up the one right outside the door of where I live now. The urban environment, particularly this environment, which is not simply a city - but a city with a unique and particular history that colors how issues like this are discussed and considered - needs to be essential to the discussion. In fact, to look so narrowly at the guns in park aspect of this is to go off on a wild tangent; it's merely the incident. I would say the same about a report about a speeding ticket in Yellowstone - what it would say is something more about the relationship of people and wildlife, not about speeding per se.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Anacostia is actually a large and diverse section of Washington, DC that includes many well-kept homes and even some mansions in the neighborhoods adjacent to Fort Dupont Park. There are indeed areas that have high poverty rates and are prone to crime but I would avoid painting with such a broad brush about a section of DC that is probably far safer statistically than other neighborhoods such as Shaw and sections of far Northeast along Benning Road and East Capitol Street.

Actually, in the purist sense, laws are what we "civilized" people use to delineate between law-abiding citizens and the criminal element. To repeatedly utilize the rhetoric, as has been stated in SO many previous threads that laws only apply to those who follow them is ludicrous, and a prime example of flawed logic. A society that maintains a moral compass, a sense of decency, respect for ALL members and many most importantly, a personal sense of honor requires little in the way of "forced" supervision and monitoring. Unfortunately the human animal has yet to aspire to that height of civilization, hence the need for some manner of legal documentation specific to what is and more to the point, what is not permissible within our societal structure.

Could it be that the subjects decided it best not to tip their hand as to their true intent by prematurely "gunning it out" during an unexpected visit from the authorities? Or, given the locale as quite aptly described in Jim's post, could it have been intended as a plant for someone who was to attempt to leave the jail in an untimely pre-release party over the holiday weekend? Speculation and imagination can lead us anywhere without some type of hard evidence, but my spidey-sense tells me that this most God awful weapon was not to be used by the goofs who brought it to the park. Blowtorches like this have no place in a civilized world, which is precisely why they currently are allowed to exist. Our lack of moral compass and incessant lobbying from groups who claim that one should be able to obtain whatever manner of firepower they believe is required for the purposes of "hunting and providing for the family". The only animal this repeater was designed to hunt, my friends, I most certainly hope you're not throwing on the barbecue this or any other weekend. If you are, PLEASE have the decency not to tell anyone, except maybe your minister, should you be so inclined, and the local constable.

In either case, to Officers Brecht and Omo, a most deserved "well done" and "thank you" are due from us all. There can be no room for doubt on anyone's part that this machine pistol wasn't going to be utilized for any purpose that could even remotely be described as "proper, useful, or justified".

MRC said:

"Give [the D.C. Parks] to the City then there is one police force, who knows the parks as part of the neighborhoods. ... This split jurisdiction seems to me as a nightmare from the point of law enforcement.

In many contexts across the nation, I believe the maintenance of a separate, unique, isolated Park law enforcement is inane bordering on the ludicrous.

Facetiously, Olympic Nat'l Park enforcement consists of one man who really wanted to do something else, a small boy, and a pet dog. To cover a million acres. Olympic enforcement should be done by the Counties in which it is embedded, and in fact both State Patrol and County Sheriff double-patrol part of the Park jurisdiction, are handy to all of it ... and likewise in most Parks. The present set-up is rinky-dink, bogus, and ineffective in the face of any real need.

Jim Macdonald asserts:

"The issue is Anacostia, poverty, racism ..."

The topic of this post, titled "Park Police Arrest Men Who Brought a Loaded Submachine Gun to a Playground in National Capital Parks-East" is unusually tightly-focused, and it is a guns-issue topic, to an unusually emphatic degree.

That some would prefer to divert the topic of discussion away from issues & matters with which they are uncomfortable (gun rights, 2nd Amendment, legal firearms in the Parks) but which are indeed closely tied to the actual topic of this post is understandable, but it remains simply that: an attempt to divert the conversation & thread.

This weapons-offense story is not about the bane of poverty that afflicts our American cities, nor the scourge of poverty that ravages much of planet Earth (to which we give short account).

This story is not about the urban decay & dissipation on display in many of our cities. The 'modern city' is a business-model which has demonstrated the limits of it's competence. An interesting theme - but a separate topic.

This is not a story of broad philosophical strokes and over-arching rhetorical devices.

This is a guns-story of the plainest & earthiest kind.

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