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Mojave National Preserve Ranger Buys Fully Automatic Rifles And “Flash-Bang” Distraction Devices


While National Park Service regulations prohibit rangers from carrying fully automatic weapons in the park system, a supervisory ranger at Mojave National Preserve in California purchased nine of the rifles and distributed them to law enforcement rangers at the preserve, according to an investigation.

The investigation, conducted in 2014, turned up a number of discrepancies in the supervisory ranger's stories, and determined that the preserve's deputy superintendent "was not aware that NPS policy prohibited rangers from carrying fully automatic weapons" when approval for the purchases was sought in 2008.

The deputy superintendent said that the purchase of new rifles was part of the management team’s final discussions of the 2009 budget. He said that he made the final decision to purchase the rifles, but he did not know specifically what was being ordered," the OIG report stated.

The preserve's contracting officer, who put through the purchase, also did not know the Colt M-4 Model R0977 rifles were fully automatic.

Another ranger at the preserve told investigators that, "(S)he knew that fully automatic rifles violated NPS policy, but the supervisory park ranger told her that MNP had received a waiver from the NPS Pacific West Region to purchase them. She said that she later questioned the existence of a waiver after the supervisory park ranger told her not to tell rangers at other parks that they had fully automatic rifles or to discuss the rifles around MNP management. She carried her rifle while on patrol at MNP until the new chief ranger arrived in October 2013 and ordered that all of the rifles be converted to semi-automatic."

It was during this investigation that the purchase of 24 flash-bang devices, which require prior approval, were purchased by the supervisory ranger without that permission.

"When we interviewed the supervisory park ranger, he told us that sometime after NPS Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was killed at Mount Rainier National Park in 2012, he and his subordinate rangers at MNP were discussing different law enforcement scenarios that they might encounter while on duty, and he felt there was a need to purchase flash-bang distraction devices."

In the end, the OIG passed on its findings to National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis for disposition.

During our investigation, we developed concerns over the control and approval of purchasing controversial and aggressive law enforcement equipment without significant controls, policies, oversight, and justification. We issued a management advisory to the NPS Director with four recommendations to help NPS put in place policy and procedures for control and oversight of the purchase of tactical law enforcement equipment. NPS responded that it generally agrees with our recommendations and has taken action to strengthen policies and controls governing equipment purchases.

There was no mention as to whether the supervisory ranger was let go by the Park Service.


The spec on this weapon lists it as semiautomatic. That is very different than automatic.

I don't have a problem with law enforecement having flash-bangs, to use with proper training and rules of engagement. The term 'grenade' is the loaded term there.

I doubt flash bang devices or fully automatic weapons would have prevented Ranger Margaret Anderson's murder.  A WA fugitive alert had been issued the day before for her killer, but news reports at the time said the park was not connected to the alert system, so she never knew she was dealing with violent criminal on the run rather than a tire-chain scofflaw.

This omission is typical of NPS law enforcement, as is the failure to follow weapons policy at Mojave National Preserve:

In general, law enforcement at DOI is aptly described by the conclusion about NPS law enforcement: '…a profusion of conditions and practices in search of a system.’"   (p.10)

"The NPS in particular, suffers from such extreme organizational dysfunction that none of the NPS officials interviewed during the course of this assessment were able to explain just how NPS special agents were supervised and managed."  (p.10)

Although estimates put the cost for operation of law enforcement [Interior] Department-wide in excess of half a billion dollars, the Assessment Team found that Bureau law enforcement programs are wholly incapable of accurately accounting for the cost of their operations.”  (p. 16)   

When asked, the Acting Chief of NPS Ranger Activities Division could not provide a breakdown of FY2000 funding totals by park.  According to the ‘NPS – Annual Law Enforcement Report’ for fiscal year 2000, the amount of actual law enforcement expenditures reported was …$28.6 million less than the reported funding level.  NPS officials could not explain nor do they have the expenditure information available to identify the difference.”  (p. 16)   

Nationwide NPS crime statistics are “…not worth the paper they are sent in on, according to a senior official.”   (p. 36)

Assessment Of Department of Interior Law Enforcement“, DOI Inspector General’s Office, 2002

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