One bullet narrowly missed a police officer and his infant daughter. Another struck a house where a 3-year-old girl was sleeping.
Police officers taking part in a "fallen officer" drill on the grounds of the Lorton Correctional Complex in Fairfax County were lying on their backs and shot their submachine guns upward, imagining they were firing at criminals.
The bullets "launched like rockets," said D.C. Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer. But the firing range was designed for lesser guns, and it didn't have sufficient berms, so the bullets flew out of the practice area, past a field and into the Newington Commons community a mile away. No one was hurt, but 12 houses and three cars were hit.
The instructor, a D.C. police sergeant who had moved the eight officers to a different area after using an authorized range, has been relieved of training duties. But local public officials didn't hold their ire.
"The seriousness of this incident cannot be overstated," said Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) "It was not an accidental or errant discharge."
CAPTION: D.C. police Sgt. Joe Gentile, left, and Sgt. Jeffrey Harold stand where officers fired.