Army National Guard major told Congress feds requested heat ray and stockpiled ammunition before clearing DC protest

Federal officials looked into getting a heat ray that makes targets’ skin feel like it’s burning and amassed thousands of rounds of ammunition in preparation for clearing a peaceful protest in Lafayette Square in June, according to written House testimony from an Army National Guard major who was at the scene.

Major Adam DeMarco described such preparations — including officials’ failure to acquire a loud announcement device for warning protesters to disperse — in an August letter responding to follow-up questions after he testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources in June about federal officers’ efforts earlier that month. DeMarco, who described himself as one of the senior National Guard officials on the scene, ran as a Democrat for Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District in 2018.

News of the contents of DeMarco’s letter was first reported by the Washington Post.

In the letter, DeMarco wrote that the Defense Department’s head military police officer for the National Capitol Region emailed him and others on the day of the protests asking if the DC National Guard had “a Long Range Acoustic Device,” which can blast walls of sound at protesters, or “the Active Denial Systems,” which feature “a directed energy beam that provides sensation of intense heat on the surface of the skin.”

DeMarco wrote that he responded saying that the DC National Guard had neither device, and that to his knowledge, no such acoustic device was used at Lafayette Square. When he looked into getting the acoustic device the next day, the DC National Guard told him “that they were no longer seeking” it.

Therefore, the US Park Service’s “warnings to disperse” did not come from that system but from “a red and white megaphone” that DeMarco saw used, he wrote. He referenced in his in-person testimony that even 30 feet from the megaphone, the “warnings to disperse were barely audible and I was only able to discern several words” — while the front line of the protesters was even further away from the warning.

He also referenced a weapons transfer to the DC National Guard the afternoon of the protest that he later learned contained “approximately 7,000 rounds of ammunition.”

A Defense Department official briefed on the matter minimized DeMarco’s account, the Post reported, and asserted that emails inquiring about particular weapons were routine in assessing available inventory. The official also told the paper that federal police failed to acquire a heat ray device during the early days of demonstrations in the city.

DeMarco’s attorney David Laufman disputed that characterization on Wednesday, saying that there “there is nothing ‘routine’ about inquiring about the availability of a heat ray to use against American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.”

In his appearance before the committee in June, DeMarco testified that tear gas was in fact used — in contrast to the official account from federal officials.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.