The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

November 15, 2013

How does a Secret Service agent manage to leave behind a bullet in a hotel room?

The latest Secret Service scandal has raised an unusual question: How does an agent manage to leave a stray bullet behind?

The issue comes up in the case of two senior supervisors removed from President Obama's protective detail, which began when one of the men allegedly left a Secret Service bullet in the room of a woman he met at the Hay-Adams Hotel bar last May.

According to two former Secret Service agents, the answer is straightforward: Senior supervisor Ignacio Zamora Jr. was likely attempting to clear a round from the chamber of his Service-issued Sig Sauer P229 semiautomatic pistol in order to secure it after joining the woman in her room.

The agency's standard operating procedure requires that all armed agents carry their weapon with a fully loaded magazine of 12 bullets, along with a thirteenth round already loaded in the chamber and ready to fire, the former agents said. There is no safety device on the weapons because they must be ready in case of emergencies, they said.

"In order to fire the gun, all you need to do is pull the trigger," said one former agent, who has worked with Zamora.

"He might have been trying to make the gun safe," this agent said. "To remove the ammo, the first thing you do is remove the source, the magazine. Because if you try to slide the rack first, whatever is in the chamber will pop out but another bullet will be inserted. To prevent that you remove the magazine, so there's no more source. Once you remove the magazine, you slide the rack to get whatever bullet is in the chamber."

One person who was briefed on the details of the case confirmed that Zamora had been attempting to secure the weapon after the woman expressed discomfort with it. She later asked him to leave, which he did before realizing he had left the bullet behind, the person said. His attempt to retrieve it alarmed hotel management, which contacted the Secret Service.

A broader review of Zamora's conduct found that he and another male supervisor had been sending improper emails to a female subordinate, leading to their removal from the protective detail.

The case came as the agency is attempting to recover from a 2012 scandal in which more than a dozen agents were caught cavorting with prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia. Whistleblowers have told a Senate committee that Secret Service agents and managers have engaged in sexual misconduct and other improprieties across a span of 17 countries in recent years.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday that Obama has "absolute confidence in the leadership at the Secret Service" despite the agency's woes.

The former agent who worked with Zamora said the agency generally frowns on agents removing the bullet from the chamber because fiddling with the chamber could result in an accident. He said agents are given trigger locks to secure their weapons at home.

But another former agent, who also has worked with Zamora, said he and his fellow agents did not travel with their locks, which are bulky like a padlock and hang off the back of the trigger.

In cases when they do not have the lock, agents are allowed to clear the chamber to secure their firearms.

"I've been in situations at other people's houses where I wanted to take off my coat and I don't want to walk around the house looking like a Texas Ranger," the second former agent said. "I take the gun out of the holster, clear the weapon and put it in my car, in the trunk."

Both former agents noted that another reason to clear the chamber is to be sure that other people do not pick up the weapon and shoot it.

The two former agents said that losing a single bullet would not have resulted in major recriminations inside the Secret Service. They said managers did not account for each bullet issued to agents, who often have three or four boxes of ammunition.

However, if the bullet were found in the room and identified as coming from Zamora's stash, it could raise difficult questions, the agents said.

The first former agent recalled of his days on the road: "What I would do is just get the gun and stick it in a drawer. I never fooled around with it."

 

1
Text Only
Nation & World
  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 19, 2014

  • Kaiser joins Thunder ownership group

    Tulsa businessman George B. Kaiser has been approved by the NBA Board of Governors as a new partner in The Professional Basketball Club LLC, which owns the Oklahoma City Thunder. Thunder Chairman and CEO Clayton I. Bennett made the announcement Friday. Kaiser is purchasing the ownership interest of Tom L. Ward.
    “We are honored to welcome George Kaiser as a member of the ownership group of the Oklahoma City Thunder,” Bennett said. “George is a well-respected and important Oklahoma business leader, as well as one of the state and nation’s top philanthropists. His commitment to successful business and community leadership is in true alignment with that of the Thunder.
    “I also appreciate the commitment and leadership provided by Tom Ward as a member of our ownership group from the beginning,” Bennett added.

    April 18, 2014

  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 18, 2014

  • MS_injection well.jpg Agency clarifies earthquake-related misinformation

    A state agency says misinformation related to the debate about the cause of more earthquakes across Central Oklahoma includes oil well types, well numbers and injection pressure.
    The Prague sequence of 2011 along the Wilzetta Fault zone included a significant foreshock, a main shock of magnitude 5.7 and numerous aftershocks. It has been suggested that this sequence represents tremors triggered by fluid injection.
    More recently, earthquakes have been recorded in the vicinity of Jones, Arcadia Lake, Edmond, Guthrie, Langston and Crescent. Regulators and scientists are working together to better understand what’s causing all the shaking.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • New study counters pot legalization argument

    A new study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences, a researcher says.
    Researchers say the findings suggest recreational marijuana use may lead to previously unidentified brain changes and highlight the importance of research aimed at understanding the long-term effects of low to moderate marijuana use on the brain.

    April 15, 2014

  • Anita Hill.jpg Anita Hill reflects on her fateful testimony, 23 years later

    Back in 1993, I rounded a corner of a Laguna Beach, Calif., grocery store and walked straight into Anita Hill.
    We both stopped in our tracks. She looked slightly panicked, like someone had turned on a light in a room, and all she wanted was the door.
    It took a moment to register that this was the woman who, just two years before, calmly testified before a Senate committee about the sexual harassment she endured while working for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas  at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of all places.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • jc_Erick Wyatt.JPG Norman man takes on challenge to unseat Inhofe

    EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of candidate profiles leading up to the 2014 Oklahoma elections.

    Erick Wyatt is running for U.S. Senate to be a strong voice of the people, he said. More than anything, Wyatt said he is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe for the sake of his children.
    The Norman Republican vows to represent the people’s interests instead of the interests of powerful political groups, Wyatt said.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140414_MALAYSIA_Bluefin.jpg In new phase to find Flight 370, search robot will enter ocean

    The pings have sputtered out in the multinational search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, forcing search crews to deploy an underwater robot to find a plane that’s eluded human efforts.
    In a last-ditch effort to find the Boeing 777 and its black box flight recorders, a U.S. Navy submersible vehicle will be used to scan an area in the southern Indian Ocean for debris.
    “We haven’t had a single detection in six days, so I guess it’s time to go underwater,” Angus Houston, who heads Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Center, told a news conference in that country’s western city of Perth on Monday.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 25801486.jpg VIDEO: Northern California bus crash kills 10

    At least nine people died in Northern California on Thursday night, in an accident involving a bus, a car and FedEx truck. The bus was filled with high school students from Southern California who were on their way to visit a college campus.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo