Report: Assault weapons improperly bought for park rangers

In this Oct. 19, 2011 photo, Seth Shteir, a California Desert Field Representative for the National Parks Conservation Association, hikes to a natural spring at the Mojave National Preserve near Kelso, Calif. By tapping into an aquifer the size of Rhode Island under a 35,000-acre Cadiz ranch, proponents say they can supply 400,000 people with drinking water in only a few years. "There's a lot of unknowns here but we think this project has the potential to adversely affect air quality, draw down water resources and alter the flow of groundwater beneath the Mojave Preserve," says Shteir, whose association plans to scrutinize an environmental review of the project, expected to be released this month. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE, Calif. (AP) — A supervisor at the Mojave National Preserve in California violated policy by buying fully automatic assault rifles and dozens of flash-bang grenades, according to a federal study released Thursday.

A supervisory park ranger at the immense desert park northeast of Los Angeles bought nine Colt M-4 fully automatic rifles between 2008 and 2010, and 24 grenades some years later, according to a report from the inspector general’s office from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The purchases violated park service policy, which specifies semi-automatic rifles and requires prior approval for defensive equipment, although the policy doesn’t specifically mention flash-bang grenades, the report said.

The supervisor, who was not named in the report, acknowledged selecting the guns and allowing park rangers to carry them on duty for three years. They replaced aging and unreliable Vietnam-era rifles that rangers had been using on patrol, the report said.

The supervisor “admitted to purchasing and distributing the automatic weapons despite knowing that they violated NPS policy; admitted telling rangers who received the automatic rifles not to display them to others; and admitted to, at a minimum, not making it clear to his supervisors that the automatic weapons needed to be converted to semi-automatics,” according to the report.

“He also provided inconsistent and implausible statements in his responses to our questions and caused us to doubt his overall truthfulness and candor,” the report said.

The report did not indicate whether the supervisory park ranger was disciplined or whether he still works for the preserve or the National Park Service.

An email sent after hours to a park service spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

According to the report, the park service firearms program manager said no other national parks had used or sought permission to use fully automatic weapons.

In late 2013, the rifles were converted to semi-automatics, the report said.

The grenades were bought for about $1,000 without proper approval and were never issued to rangers, the report said.

The report said the National Park Service has since strengthened its procedures for buying equipment.

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