- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

D.C. police yesterday scoured densely wooded parks for the remains of Chandra Levy, focusing on Rock Creek Park near Klingle Mansion, which the 24-year-old former intern had researched on a Web site before vanishing nearly 12 weeks ago.

The only thing that turned up were animal bones. Police today will continue their search of parks and landfills and are seeking records from cab companies to see if any taxis picked up Miss Levy around the time she vanished.

Meanwhile, the lead evidence technician in the missing-persons case has been detailed off the investigation because of scheduling and management problems at the department's shooting range, The Washington Times has learned.

Metropolitan Police Officer John Allie, a forensic-evidence technician who searched Miss Levy's apartment and has handled other evidence in the high-profile case, was detailed to the evidence-intake room of the property division last week, police sources told The Times.

Officials say Officer Allie and about 46 other officers failed to meet their semi-annual firearms qualification at the shooting range in Southeast. As a result, they were temporarily stripped of their police powers and cannot carry their guns and badges.

Taking the lead forensic technician off any case — let alone the Levy probe — delays evidence processing and slows the investigation, officials from the department's forensic-sciences division said.

Yesterday, scores of officers and about 50 recruits from the training academy walked a few feet apart through heavily forested areas — including Fort Dupont Park in Southeast — to search for any clues. Similar searches of abandoned buildings and vacant lots near Miss Levy's residence and that of Rep. Gary A. Condit last week yielded no results.

Police are awaiting the results of tests on DNA samples taken during a search of Mr. Condit's apartment last week. Mr. Condit, California Democrat, has submitted a DNA sample and the results of a polygraph test he paid for and passed.

Some officers have flunked the shooting test or other parts of the exam, but Officer Allie and several other members of the Mobile Crime Lab repeatedly were turned away by range officials, who cited staffing problems or regulations, according to police sources.

Sgt. Dave Sargent, a 16-year-veteran who oversees the lab, said he, Officer Allie and others were detailed out of the lab because they did not get the chance to qualify. "With everybody who's been moved from their jobs, their work is backing up," he said.

The head of the D.C. police union, Sgt. Gerald G. Neill, said problems with staffing, scheduling and management at the range prohibited members of the lab and others from getting the chance to qualify.

Officer Allie could not be reached for comment.

At least one other member of the search team that collected samples in Mr. Condit's apartment was a forensic-evidence technician who also had been detailed out of the lab because he was not allowed to shoot at the range, police sources said.

When Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer learned of their work, he called the commander of the forensic-science division into his office and berated him, according to two police sources.

"He went fairly well ballistic on [Cmdr. Chris] Cooch," said one source.

Cmdr. Cooch told The Times yesterday the decision to put Officer Allie and others on the Condit detail "was a no-brainer."

"You put your best foot forward. No one has told me it was the wrong decision," he said, adding that he met with Chief Gainer in his office for an unrelated reason and the chief "never talked to me about this."

"I haven't taken any flak," he said.

Chief Gainer has declined comment.

It is not clear when the forensic investigators and other officers will be able to gain entry to the range to qualify.

The Fraternal Order of Police/Metropolitan Police Labor Committee has received a list of 43 officers whose powers were revoked because they did not qualify at the shooting range, Sgt. Neill said. Closing the shooting range at the Lorton Correctional Complex in Virginia has overburdened the department's range in Southeast, he said.

"With the sheer numbers that have to qualify at the facility, it burns it up," Sgt. Neill said, adding that between 200 and 300 officers do not qualify during each six-month period.

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