The Army has launched an investigation into the whereabouts of a D.C. National Guard unit rifle that disappeared during training in Virginia three weeks ago, a spokesperson for the Army confirmed to Politico on Friday.
Two people familiar with the probe say that an M4 rifle and scope went missing sometime around March 11, while members of the unit, which was formed as a quick reaction force to protect the Capitol, were at a weapons range at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia for training. Guard members noted that a missing rifle is a significant security risk, noting that the Capitol area is still on high alert about three months after the Capitol attack due to continued concerns about threats of violence.
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command first alerted the D.C. National Guard that they were investigating last Tuesday, and the investigators conducted interviews with the people who were at the range that day on Thursday. Although the National Guard did interview members of the guard after the rifle was reported missing, they turned the investigation over to the CID after failing to find the rifle or determine what happened to it.
Politico notes that the Defense Department tends to act strictly when weapons are lost. Last year, two service members, a commander and a sergeant major, were fired after two rifles were lost during a training exercise in North Carolina, and an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service remains ongoing.
The Pentagon previously approved a request from Capitol Police to leave about 2,300 National Guard troops in the capital in early March, which will be reduced over the course of the next two months.
"The United States Capitol Police Department is aware of and prepared for any potential threats towards members of Congress or towards the Capitol complex," the Capitol Police said in a statement. "We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4. We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers.
"Our Department is working with our local, state, and federal partners to stop any threats to the Capitol. We are taking the intelligence seriously. Due to the sensitive nature of this information, we cannot provide additional details at this time."
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