D.C. National Guard opens probe into low-flying helicopter over protest

Melissa Quinn

Washington — The District of Columbia National Guard has launched an investigation into a low-flying maneuver by one of its helicopters over protesters in the nation's capital on Monday, its commanding general announced.

"I hold all members of the District of Columbia National Guard to the highest of standards," Major General William Walker said in a statement Wednesday. "We live and work in the district, and we are dedicated to the service of our nation."

The D.C. National Guard was mobilized earlier this week to assist with the response to protests taking place in the nation's capital. While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some earlier this week led to vandalism and destruction near the White House once the sun set. On Monday, as protesters marched through the district after its 7 p.m. curfew, video emerged of a military helicopter hovering low over the crowd, kicking up debris around them.

US-POLITICS-RACE-UNREST-POLICE-DEMONSTRATION

A military helicopter flies low, pushing a strong vertical down wash of air onto the crowd during a protest over the death of George Floyd on June 1, 2020, in Washington, D.C. ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images

Walker said the D.C. National Guard is examining the use of the medical evacuation helicopter as part of its probe.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon that he learned Tuesday afternoon that the helicopter involved in the incident was a National Guard helicopter.

"Within an hour or so of learning of this, I directed the secretary of the Army to conduct an inquiry to determine what happened and why, and to report back to me," Esper said.

Governors of 28 states and the District of Columbia have activated more than 20,000 National Guard troops to assist law enforcement in response to the unrest following the death of George Floyd, 46, in Minneapolis last week. Demonstrators in major U.S. cities from coast-to-coast have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and the deaths of unarmed African Americans in police custody.

During a speech in the Rose Garden at the White House on Monday, President Trump vowed to deploy the military to deal with protesters if city or state officials declined to take action to stop the vandalism and looting that has occurred in some places. The president also said he had dispatched "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers" to Washington, D.C., after protests there led to clashes with law enforcement Sunday night.

Analyzing Trump's calls for military mobilization to confront nationwide protests

Concern that nationwide protests could lead to another wave of COVID-19

Trump facing backlash from D.C. religious leaders after church and shrine visits