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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
January 16, 1997 2:00 PM EDT
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

I just want to start with a brief announcement. Secretary Perry is currently having dinner in Portsmouth, England aboard the HMS Victory with Michael Portillo, the British Minister of Defense, and the President of Poland, the Defense Minister of Denmark, the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General George Joulwan, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, and the Chief of Staff of the French Armed Forces. This is a working dinner to discuss a variety of European security issues, and he will be back here tomorrow. He has also toured several British ships in the fleet and had several bilateral meetings in the afternoon before dinner. He left last night after dinner here.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: The President, foreign policy advisors met with him today to discuss NATO and European affairs, and Albright I know was over there. Was Bill Cohen there?

A: Senator Cohen was not there. It was a meeting of current Administration officials.

Q: If Madeline Albright was there, why wasn't...

A: She's currently the Ambassador to the UN and a member of the Cabinet.

Q: Can you speak at all at this stage, Ken, to the issue of high level appointments in this Department being made or being contemplated? Is Bill Cohen making these choices, or is he participating in some kind of collective decision-making process?

A: First of all, Senator Cohen has been spending a lot of time at the Department. He's being very extensively briefed on a variety of topics, but he is not yet Secretary of Defense, and therefore, it's not time for him to begin making personnel decisions. That will begin, I assume, after he gets here which should be at the end of next week, we anticipate. But he has been spending most of his time receiving information from people on a range of military and foreign policy and other policy issues. That's what he's doing, and he's also preparing for his confirmation hearings. So I think it's premature now to talk about his personnel changes. That's something he'll address once he becomes Secretary.

Q: So he will then officially be a party to those decisions? Nothing is being done before he is confirmed?

A: No, indeed. That's exactly right. For instance, there have been some vacancies for some time. As you know, Ash Carter, who was the Assistant Secretary for International Security Policy, left in September, and his post has remained open and still remains open. That's one post that will have to be filled when Senator Cohen becomes Secretary Cohen. There will be some other posts as well. I don't know whether you were here on Thursday, but at that time I noted that two Under Secretaries -- Paul Kaminski and Ed Dorn -- have announced that they plan to leave, so those are posts that will have to be filled as well.

Q: So all of that will await the confirmation of Senator Cohen.

A: Yes, but we anticipate that's only a week off.

Q: Does Secretary Perry plan to have any kind of a transition office? Will he have any time in Washington after his days here to work on arranging placement of his papers or any of that sort of thing?

A: He'll be here several days, and then he's heading out to California. He doesn't plan to spend much time here at all. He wants to get out to California, establish his office out there, and start working on his book, which he hopes to finish in a year.

Q: What about his papers? Do you know what happens to those?

A: His papers are going to California. They'll be at Stanford, I believe. As you know, there's an arrangement for maintaining Secretarial papers so they can be secured and he can take certain... He can take a wide range of documents out with him while he's working on his book.

Q: Can you discuss what is known at this point about yesterday's incident involving Defense Protective Service officers and why they opened fire on what turned out to be unarmed individuals?

A: I can answer some questions on those, but probably not all the questions.

First, let me say that the incident is being investigated on three levels. The first level is the Arlington County Police. They're responsible actually for investigating the alleged crime that occurred, which is the theft of vans. And, in fact, today, three of the five people involved, the five suspects involved, were arraigned in Arlington County Court. One was charged with two counts of grand larceny, one was charged with one count of grand larceny, and one was charged with conspiracy to commit grand larceny. They are all juveniles, so their names have not been released. The two other suspects are still in Georgetown University Hospital where they are recuperating from the operations they had yesterday. They were the suspects that were shot in the incident by the Defense Protective Service. So the Arlington County Police are investigating the actual crime.

Then the Defense Protective Service is investigating what their agents did. There are standard procedures for investigating any use of weapons, any use of force, and those procedures are being followed now. That will take probably several days, maybe longer, to complete that investigation. They will also look at how these people were trained, how they followed procedures. They will look at whether training should be changed in light of this incident. It's a standard review that they go through in these cases.

Q: Is suspension of anybody pending? Any of these...

A: Let me get to that after I get to the three levels of investigation. The Defense Protective Service believes that there should be an independent investigation that's conducted outside the DPS, and they are in the process now of setting up an independent investigation. When that's finally set up and the details are worked out, we can tell you who's going to do that and what the schedule's going to be, but we're not quite there yet. We may have those details worked out by this afternoon, but they haven't been worked out yet. So those are the three levels of investigation.

Now to answer...

Q: Is that a federal type? When you say outside, what type of body might conduct the investigation?

A: It could be a range of bodies. It could be the FBI, it could be the CID, it could be the Defense Investigative Service. There are a number of services, but they would like to get it outside of the DPS so it's a fair, open, and thorough investigation that is understood to be independent by everybody. One of the reasons for that is there are 222 people in the DPS. Four of those are investigators who probe cases like this when they occur, but two of the investigators happened to be involved, happened to be among the group of agents who were involved in this incident. There were 16 DPS members involved in all -- some from around the Pentagon and some from the Navy Annex up on the hill. So given the fact that half of the investigative force was involved in the incident and that 16 of the 222 officers were involved in the incident, the Chief, John Jester, thinks it would make more sense to have an independent investigation.

The officers involved in the shooting, there were actually seven who were involved in the shooting part of the incident, have all been moved from patrol to administrative duty. And several of those... They've all been offered the opportunity to take a few days leave, and I believe three of the officers are taking a few days leave. This is fairly standard in a case like this. There can be psychological stresses, and there's a fairly well-worked-out protocol among law enforcement agencies that often includes taking a day or two off to sort of regroup and think through. It also tends to help with the investigations because operating in a high tension environment like this sometimes the memory can blot out certain things and it might take awhile to reconstruct, and sometimes some quiet time away from the job helps in that. So this is fairly standard.

Q: Seven people actually fired shots or seven people were in close proximity when shots were fired?

A: Seven people actually fired shots.

Q: Because no one has been suspended, does the Pentagon have a preliminary sense that the actions taken yesterday were appropriate?

A: I think we have to wait for the investigation. I think what is very clear so far, and this is just so far, pending further investigation, but what's very clear so far from my conversations with Chief Jester and from his conversations with various authorities and the officers themselves is that the officers had reason to believe that one of their officers was in danger. That's what provoked the action. They have fairly explicit rules governing the use of force. We'd be glad to make a copy of this directive available to you. It's an August 1996 directive and it says that they are authorized to fire their weapons in order to protect police officers or others from what is reasonably believed to be an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury. They believed that was the case.

Q: Do we know why they believed that was the case?

A: I think I would rather let the whole investigation run its course before we get into details, because I don't think that we have complete accounts from everybody involved yet and it would be better to wait until we do.

Q: Were the only shots fired up in front of the Navy Annex, or were shots fired in the Pentagon parking lot, or before we reached that point?

A: There was not a shot fired in the Pentagon parking lot.

Q: Do you know how many shots were fired altogether? Was it 100 or 10?

A: No. About 20 shots, we think.

Q: Similarly, are there procedures on hot pursuit? And for what type of crime you can pursue?

A: Yes. We also have a 1993 directive on hot pursuit which we'll also provide to you afterwards. Glenn Flood, I guess, has those. From what we can tell, this was a completely authorized pursuit.

Q: Many jurisdictions do not pursue for property crimes. They pursue for murder, where there's been violence, or where someone's life is in danger. But your guidelines allow for pursuit for property?

A: My review of the guidelines and my conversations with the attorneys indicate that this was appropriate. But I want to be clear. We're going to have these investigations, and one part of the investigation will be to find out if procedures were followed correctly. We're going to this investigation with a completely open mind, obviously, and we will scrub this thing from beginning to end and nine ways to Sunday to make sure everything was done the way it should have been done. And also, frankly, to look for improvements, if any, that could be made in training, could be made in procedures.

Q: The North Parking Lot is going to be a staging area for vehicles in the inaugural activities. Were there additional DPS officers in the area, were they able to respond quickly to this incident or able to observe it in action? Basically, were the attention levels higher because of what's going to go on next weekend?

A: No. However, there is a, the firing range that is used by officers in the DPS is near the North Parking area, and the report of this alleged theft first came in to officers who were in the firing range area. They first phoned into the headquarters and got squad cars deployed, and secondly, some of the officers who were there went out to the scene. The allegation is, obviously, that some people had arrived in a van which the Arlington County Police believe had been stolen elsewhere, had come to the North Parking Lot to steal more vans, and they were caught in the act of attempting to do this, the suspects were, then they fled in their two vans. As they fled, the police followed them. Then other DPS units joined the chase when they got near the Navy Annex. Some came out of the Navy Annex area which explains why there were so many officers involved.

Q: Let me get this straight. The first people on the scene, minutes before, had been in the firing range shooting their weapons, but they were the first there?

A: There were no shots fired in the North Parking Lot where this... They came out... I don't know exactly the order of when they got there compared to when people got there in the car. Let me just give you a little background.

Car theft is something that the DPS has been combating for the last several years. There were 22 cars stolen from the Pentagon parking lots last year. Those are the lots right around the Pentagon here. That was down slightly from 1995 when there were I think 26 cars stolen, and down sharply from 1994 when 54 cars were stolen. So the local police, the DPS, have been working hard to try to stop car thefts. There's also been a radio theft ring at work in the Pentagon parking lots, and they've been working against that as well. So they patrol these lots regularly, and I don't know where the nearest patrol car was, but they didn't have to start from a sitting start and leap into their cruiser and go out there.

Q: Were any of the seven who fired shots, were they among those who had been on the firing range previously?

A: I can't answer that question, but I do not believe so. I will take the question. I won't promise an answer before we have the investigation completed, but I will take the question.

Q: There have been reports that after the vehicle came to a stop the officers ordered two of the occupants out and at that point approached the vehicle where there were two in the back, and at that moment there was the furtive gesture or whatever led to the shooting. Can you confirm that or add any details...

A: That's basically correct as far as it goes.

Q: So all were ordered out, two came out, two stayed in, and that in itself gave the officers cause to...

A: Bill, you're leaping to a conclusion here that's beyond where I want to go right now. But it is true that there were four people in the van, but two were hidden in back. Only two were visible at first. That was one of the elements in the drama.

Q: The two in the back refused orders to exit the van?

A: Nobody knew they were in the back. They were hiding. They were not visible to the officers at the time.

Q: By chance did any pole-mounted or rooftop Pentagon cameras capture any of this on videotape?

A: A good question. The answer is yes, no, and we don't know. Which one would you like me to go through first? [Laughter]

There are rooftop cameras here, as you know, and they sweep around. We do not believe... They did not apparently catch the incident in the North Parking Lot but they caught some of the chase as they were leaving the area. So they missed part if it, they caught a fleeting part of the departure.

There were also cameras located elsewhere closer to where the shooting took place, and as of an hour or so ago, those films were in the custody of the Arlington County Police, and we have not reviewed them, so therefore, I don't know what's on those films. That was also a sweeping camera that could have caught the incident or might not have caught the incident. But I'm not aware of what's on those films.

Q: ...Navy Annex?

A: They were elsewhere.

Q: From your preliminary indications, what was the threatening gesture, what was the act that...

A: I really want this to be presented fully by the investigators. I just want to leave it with the statement that the officers believed there was reason to feel threatened, and...

Q: The two who were shot were the ones who were apparently hiding in the van, right?

A: One of them got out, so there were three left. I'm not sure which ones were shot. There was one on the front seat and two in the back, and I'm not sure which ones were shot.

Q: You indicated, you used the phrase "radio theft ring". Are you insinuating there was a car theft ring and this is orchestrated by some outside organization, or is this 20 independent, from all the investigations, isolated incidents?

A: I can't answer that question definitively, but the police believe that at least these people were seeking vans of specific color and characteristics, which leads me to believe that it wasn't random.

Q: Do you think they were working for a chop shop?

A: I can't answer that question.

Q: How many times were these people hit by bullets, the 20 bullets that were fired?

A: I don't know the answer to that.

Q: Mark had asked about video. Is it possible to have copies of the videotapes made available?

A: I'd certainly be glad to ask the question, but I can tell you what the answer will be right now. Not until the investigation is complete. After that there may be...

Q: As soon as possible. How's that?

A: I think the independent investigation is likely to take several weeks. That's what the DPS assumes, that they will not have a complete package of all three investigations wrapped up for several weeks.

Q: Is this rare for the DPS to be involved in this sort of incident? What sort of violent incidents have occurred in the past?

A: The DPS has only existed since 1987, ten years. There have been three shooting incidents in that time. The reason the DPS came into existence in 1987 was that prior to that time the GSA, the General Services Administration ran the Pentagon, was responsible for the building, and they provided security. But in 1987 the Pentagon staff took over the administration of this area which, as you know, is called the Pentagon reservation. So the DPS started then.

There have been three incidents. One actually goes back to before the DPS was founded, as I understand it. That is in the summer of 1986 an individual was shot and killed by a GSA police officer just inside the River Entrance of the Pentagon. The individual was brandishing a .32-caliber pistol, and he ran past the security guard screaming, "I'm looking for my MX missile." That was the first incident.

In March of 1995, a person believed to be a bank robber, because he fit the description of a bank robbery suspect, drew a weapon and fired on DPS officers when they approached him around the Pentagon Metro entrance. He ran away, firing behind him, as he went, at the DPS officers, at the pursuing officers. He was shot, it turns out, by an FBI agent who was over here for lunch and happened to be around the officers at the time.

Then last fall in October, a DPS officer drew his weapon and fired toward a car that had been stolen, or he believed to have been stolen from North Parking. In fact it turned out to have been stolen, and he was trying to stop the crime right there, but the suspect drove at him and he leapt out of his way and pulled his weapon and fired at the car, but the guy got off with the car. That was October of 1996.

So those are the three previous incidents that I'm aware of where weapons were used here.

Q: Do you have the results of the investigations into the three shootings that you just mentioned?

A: The first case, the officer who was then a GSA officer, because this was before the DPS had been created, was found to have acted appropriately, or I should say, the way my notes put it here, his action was found not to be inappropriate. The FBI conducted that investigation.

I don't have a full read-out on the outcome of the March '95 one. As you will see if you look at the use of force rules, in cases where somebody is shot and killed or somebody is killed because force is used, the officers are automatically put on administrative leave until the investigation is complete and until the officers can be debriefed and undergo certain counseling before they come back. This is just built into the procedure that you'll see. So in that case several officers were put on administrative leave because the suspected bank robber was killed.

The October '96 case remains under investigation.

Q: Do you know the racial mix of those seven officers that fired weapons?

A: I believe it was three and four, but I'm not sure how many were black and which were caucasian.

Q: Three black?

A: Three black and four caucasian.

Q: Four white and one female?

A: I didn't know that was a race, but I'm willing to learn it. [Later corrected to four black and three white.]

Q: I take it it was recognized by these officers that these were kids from the beginning. Did they not get close enough to see that?

A: I think it's fair to say they realized that the suspected car thieves were young, but they were still trying to steal a car.

Q: One Pentagon spokesperson yesterday spoke about one of the officers or more thinking they heard a shot, and then there was another report that it was a motion or a gesture. Has that been nailed down at this point or is someone still saying they heard some sound they thought might be a shot?

A: I'd just like to leave it where I am, which is that the officers had reason to believe that one of their officers was in a life threatening situation.

Q: ...actually seeing them steal the van?

A: They saw a group of people they believed were stealing a van. They got into a van which was not theirs, which was owned by a Pentagon employee, and drove off in it.

Q: How did they know it wasn't theirs?

A: They know now, certainly, that it wasn't theirs because the Pentagon employee has identified her van.

Q: But at the time?

A: I can't answer that question, but you can imagine if you're breaking into a car, it might lead a reasonable person to believe that it's not your car. Ordinarily we wouldn't break into our own cars. They felt that a car was being broken into before their eyes.

Q: Is there an inadvertent message here that the Pentagon is sending to people who might like to look at this vast parking lot as a potential place to pick up things like cars and radios?

A: I think that the message we've been sending for the last several years is we take car theft seriously. There are 11,000 cars parked around the Pentagon every day. The DPS has intensified its surveillance of those cars and it's been working hard to prevent them from being stolen. The numbers show that they're having some success. Beyond that, I wouldn't read anything into this particular event.

Q: Do you have any information about the Kwajalein BMDO attempt that didn't get off the ground and why that was a problem?

A: Yeah. First of all, it dealt, as you know -- you obviously know. I don't know that everybody knows this. But as part of our program to develop a national missile defense system, we were going to test some sensors called an exoatmospheric kill vehicle sensor in a rocket to be launched from Kwajalein. That was to have occurred, I believe, on Monday or Tuesday. It was scheduled for January 13th. It didn't occur because there was a malfunction in a global positioning system. As soon as they get that fixed and the rocket and the equipment check out, they will do the test. So it is not a test that's been terminated. It's a test that's just been postponed because of a technical malfunction.

Q: On two matters concerning, potentially concerning Taiwan, one definitely concerning Taiwan. Journalistic sources in Taiwan have confirmed that there has been deployed the Skybo 2 and the Sunfang 2 missiles, which I assume are surface to air, but I'm not certain. This was reported here in papers last week and confirmed by the Taiwanese. Any comment as to what these missiles are intended to do in the defense of Taiwan? And are they destabilizing, aggravating the situation with mainland China?

A: I'm afraid I'm just not up on that topic, and rather than flail around up here, let me have Lieutenant Colonel Sivigny try to get you an answer.

Q: I've been trying to get answers, and others have too, with no success on this.

Secondly, on the two destroyers that allegedly are going to be sold by Russia to China, question one, would the United States Department of Defense prefer if Russia did not sell this kind of hardware and technology that goes with it to the Chinese? That's question one.

A: This is a legitimate arms sale from one sovereign country to another sovereign country. Obviously we would always prefer that threats be held to the lowest possible level, but we don't see this as a threatening move by China or by Russia.

Q: It's not a threat potentially for Taiwan for China to have this advanced hardware and these technologically advanced missiles?

A: We believe that China is committed to the peaceful resolution of the Taiwanese issue. Our policy is that, as summarized in the communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, we believe in a one China policy and the peaceful resolution of disputes between Taiwan and China.

Q: But more specifically, Ken, do you have a point of view with regard to the possible threat to Taiwan of this hardware coming from Russia, to the PRC?

A: I think we made very clear to China last year that we have a very strong commitment to the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue, and that efforts to intimidate Taiwan won't lead to a quick or peaceful resolution. We opposed those efforts last year, and we would oppose any new efforts to intimidate Taiwan, but I don't see this as an effort to intimidate Taiwan. It's part of an ongoing program by China to improve its Navy. This has been going on for some time.

As you know, when Deng Xiaoping took over, he announced the four modernizations. The last modernization was defense. It actually was the last one he got to. He concentrated on agriculture first, he concentrated on the economy, other things before defense. In the last couple of years they've begun to put more investment in defense, and one of the ways they've done that is to increase investment in their Navy, and I see this as part of that program.

Let me just flip the numbers of something I said before. The racial composition of the DPS officers involved in the shooting, four were black and three were white; and none of the DPS officers involved in the shooting had been at the firing range previously. If you think about it, the reason was that the people who were involved in the shooting had been involved in the chase, and they were the people who either arrived in cars at the scene of the suspected crime, or people who picked them up later when they came up by the Navy Annex.

Q: Would you also take the question about how many of those bullets hit the young people? Out of the approximately 20 that were fired.

A: Ask Glenn Flood that question. He'll try to find out.

Q: Just to clarify, individuals who were at the firing range were the observers of what they believed to be a crime and they alerted other DPS officers? Is that more...

A: A Pentagon employee, not part of the DPS, spotted what he thought was a crime. He went to the firing range, which was nearby, because he knew the DPS officers were there. They have a regular program of practice, and alerted them. They phoned headquarters from there and, at the same time, since they are police officers, they went out to see if they could prevent what they thought to be was a crime. They did go out and as they were going toward these people, some police cars came at the same time, and these guys picked up and left. Some of them left in the van they had come there in; and others left in the van they had picked up in the north parking lot. That's when the chase began.

Q: Do you know how many police cars were involved the immediate chase?

A: I'm afraid I don't. Glen will tell you, I think it was two involved in the immediate chase from north parking, because they were actually pursuing two vans, and then the vans divided when they got onto Columbia Pike -- one went east and one went west. One car followed one, one car followed the other.

Q: Then there were...

A: There were others. They were radioing their position along the way, and there were other officers up at the Navy Annex where there are 3,000 parking spaces, and that area is also patrolled. Some of those then came and got involved in the incident.

Press: Thank you.