The Maryland National Guard cannot account for hundreds of rounds of ammunition that, at least on paper, were distributed during the unrest in Baltimore in 2015, guard officials have acknowledged.
They aren’t sure whether the 1,500 missing M4 rounds actually disappeared or are the result of an “accounting error” materializing on their books, said Col. Charles Kohler, a guard spokesman. But they know procedures weren’t followed and have revamped protocols for tracking ammunition and other equipment during state emergencies as a result, he said.
“We didn’t follow established procedures in issuing the ammunition and that’s how we were unable to account for the ammunition,” Kohler said. “Since then, we have modified our procedures for bringing on soldiers on state active duty and also withdrawing them from state active duty.”
The changes are among many others the guard implemented based on lessons learned from the April 2015 unrest, when rioting, looting and arson in the city led Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency.
Those changes also include revamped policies for standing up a central mobilization site, checking soldiers’ medical fitness and ensuring they have the proper personnel and payroll statuses, among other things, Kohler said.
The guard sent 4,300 soldiers into Baltimore to assist the Baltimore Police in restoring order, it’s first such deployment since 1968, when the city erupted after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. They remained in the city for a week.
After the 2015 operation, which was dubbed Operation Baltimore Rally, Maj. Gen. Linda Singh briefed the commanders of the other 53 state and territorial guards.
No soldier fired a weapon during the deployment. “We had not one single incident where our soldiers were involved in apprehending anyone or engaged in any kind of incident,” Kohler said.
The missing ammunition was first reported by WBAL on Wednesday.
The M4 carbine is a descendant of the AR-15, or M-16, and is considered standard military equipment.
Kohler said the guard was aware of the missing ammunition “immediately” after ending its deployment in the city after the unrest, and launched two separate investigations into what had occurred that concluded within months of the unrest.
The guard “did not find anybody liable” for the “broken chain of custody” over the ammunition, Kohler said.
“At the time, it was a state emergency [for which] we were bringing people on as expeditiously as possible,” he said. “It’s no excuse for what occurred, but it is what happened. It was a matter of timing and trying to be responsive to the situation.”
Moving forward, ammunition allocations for domestic situations will be handled with more care, Kohler said.
The unrest followed widespread protests against police brutality after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who suffered severe spinal cord injuries while in police custody in April 2015.