WASHINGTON, D.C. – What began as a low-key happy hour among coworkers last Thursday ended with one Secret Service agent dead, a second in jail, and the agency reeling from yet another high profile scandal. According to the Metropolitan Police Department, about a dozen off-duty agents arrived at a popular steakhouse and bar near the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown, shortly after 6:30 p.m. Saturday evening.
Bartender Woody Boyd, who served the agents, told FOX 5 DC the group was initially well-mannered and cordial but as the night progressed and the alcohol flowed, the group’s atmosphere darkened. “They got pretty rowdy,” Boyd recalled. “So much so that patrons around them started moving to other tables.” Boyd said the agents were very vocal about their work, going out of their way to tell everyone around them that they were part of the president’s security detail.
According to Boyd and others at the steakhouse Thursday night, it was around nine o’clock when the agents engaged in a “loud and heated” discussion concerning official White House security protocols. “I just remember hearing something about the safety of the president’s daughters,” said a woman who spoke to FOX 5 DC on the condition of anonymity. Metropolitan Police investigators believe the alcohol-fueled discussion evolved into a rudimentary plan to test the integrity of White House security protocols by staging a mock kidnapping.
Outdoor CCTV cameras at the Four Seasons show the agents left the restaurant at approximately 10:45 p.m., leaving behind an unpaid bar tab totaling over $1200. From there, investigators believe the heavily intoxicated agents drove straight to the White House where they bypassed security and attempted to infiltrate the presidential living quarters. Details at this point are sparse but it is believed the mock abduction failed before the agents could reach the First Daughters. All but two of the agents were detained by Uniformed Secret Service officers. Special Agents Samuel Fisher and Harry Tasker fled the White House grounds in two armored presidential limousines.
Approximately seventeen minutes later, at 11:53 p.m., the two limousines were spotted by Maryland State Police heading north toward Rockville on I-270. Officers made several unsuccessful attempts to stop the vehicles and a chase ensued. A spokesman for the Maryland State Police, Captain Leon S. Kennedy, told reporters the following day, “Certain modifications on these vehicles, such as bulletproof tires, hindered our ability to quickly and effectively pacify the situation.” Captain Kennedy described the chase as “chaotic,” saying the armored limos reached speeds in excess of 120 mph and displayed “a complete disregard for the safety of other drivers.”
A local news station’s traffic chopper was passing over I-270 and caught the last few minutes of the chase on camera, which ended shortly after one of the armored limousines, driven by Special Agent Samuel Fisher, veered off the highway and slammed into a bridge embankment before exploding in flames. Captain Kennedy said the limo was going 109 mph when it impacted the concrete embankment. “There was nothing left,” he said.
Minutes later, Maryland State Police were able to corner the second presidential limo and persuade Special Agent Tasker, albeit at gunpoint, to surrender peacefully. After failing a field sobriety test, Agent Tasker, a seven year veteran, told police he was on official business and involved in a “mock kidnapping operation.”
The Secret Service and the White House have remained mostly silent on the incident, with Secret Service Director Ethan Hunt’s office releasing a two sentence statement to the press saying the Service had recently conducted a “training exercise.”
This debacle comes prior to the arrest of a Secret Service officer Friday night for destruction of property and burglary after allegedly trying to break into a private home in the District. Additionally, a separate incident came to light early this month involving two Secret Service agents who were caught on surveillance video while driving drunk at the White House. The video footage itself has since been deleted, with Secret Service saying part of its policy is to delete video footage every 72 hours.