Army Probe into Helicopters Buzzing DC Protesters Now Under Pentagon Review

A U.S. Army UH-72A Lakota helicopter over Washington D.C., January 18, 2017.
A U.S. Army UH-72A Lakota helicopter performs equipment checks prior to the 58th Presidential Inauguration over Washington D.C., January 18, 2017. (U.S. National Guard/Staff Sgt. Patrick P. Evenson)

The Secretary of the Army today said that the Defense Department is now reviewing the investigation into military helicopters that allegedly flew dangerously low over crowds during a June 1 race protest in Washington D.C.

The Army opened an investigation into reports -- including video footage -- of Army UH-60 Black Hawk and UH-72 Lakota helicopters with medical markings that flew low enough to kick up debris on demonstrators who were defying the District's 7 p.m. curfew.

"The Army has completed its portion of the ... investigation," Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters during a Monday roundtable at the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.

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The investigation is now with the DoD Inspector General's office for further review, McCarthy said.

"They review these in these cases," McCarthy said. "To my understanding it will be released when it is completed."

McCarthy added that the pending release of the investigation is at the "discretion" of the DoD IG.

The protests in D.C. turned violent late on Sunday May 29, resulting in protestors clashing with law enforcement and National Guard troops. Several monuments were damaged and about five soldiers were hit in the head by flying bricks and other debris, Army officials have said.

"The protest became very violent on Sunday evening, in particular, and it was necessary to bring the support to help local law enforcement and federal law enforcement officials due to the tremendous damage and police officers and Guardsmen being injured," McCarthy told reporters at the roundtable.

The Army's senior leadership authorized the Guard to use helicopters to "observe and report" on demonstrations, Army officials have said.

Army officials have been tight-lipped about the investigation, but Maj. Gen. William Walker, commander of the D.C. National Guard, told reporters in early June that "there was no order" given for helicopters to fly low "to disperse the crowd."

McCarthy stressed that the Army does not "police American streets," but responded to requests for support from federal, state and local law enforcement.

"In the instance of National Guardsmen being called up that are uniquely trained for these types of operations, if we are called, we will ... support that to protect federal property and support law enforcement," McCarthy said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at

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