Philadelphia Breach Raises Fresh Questions About Security in Federal Buildings
(PHILADELPHIA) -- A disgruntled ex-cop carrying a loaded gun bypassed metal detectors at a federal building in Philadelphia and entered the FBI’s office there this week after flashing a fake police badge and his inactive ID card, according to sources and court records obtained by ABC News.
The FBI ultimately took the man’s gun after becoming suspicious, but “he could’ve shot up half the office by that point,” as one law enforcement expert put it after reading the court records.
“This latest report of a security breach at a federal building is concerning,” the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., told ABC News in a statement. “After our committee’s close review of the security practices and procedures at federal facilities in the wake of the tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard [last year], it became clear that the quality of the physical security at our federal buildings is in need of improvement, and this incident underscores that finding.”
A Justice Department spokesperson, meanwhile, insisted the man who allegedly breached security on Monday never posed a threat.
Just before 5 p.m. on Monday, Melvin “Tony” Ramos entered the William J. Green Jr. Federal Building in Philadelphia, which houses offices of the FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service, among other federal agencies, according to the court records.
After showing a badge and a police ID card to an officer of the Federal Protective Service, which helps secure federal buildings, Ramos was allowed to bring his loaded semi-automatic handgun into the building and up to the FBI office on the eighth floor, where he said he wanted to file a complaint with the FBI, according to the court documents.
Ramos, who allegedly repeatedly identified himself as an officer with the University of Pennsylvania Police Department, was again allowed to keep his gun while two FBI agents interviewed him, court documents say.
But Ramos had not been an employee of the University of Pennsylvania police department for nearly a year, having left his job on medical leave before being terminated on Sept. 11, 2013, a university spokesman told ABC News.
Ramos never turned in his police ID card, and the police department never retrieved it.
The university spokesman would not say what type of medical leave Ramos had taken. On Monday, though, Ramos allegedly told the FBI agents that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“During the interview, Ramos seemed agitated, frequently answered questions by digressing to unrelated matters, and referenced the suicide of another UPPD police officer multiple times,” say documents filed by the FBI in federal court. “Agents began to believe that Ramos may no longer be a police officer.”
They took his gun -- with one round in the chamber and 14 rounds in the magazine -- and called university police, which informed the FBI that the badge Ramos used to enter the federal building in Philadelphia was “not authentic” and was apparently a replica of a badge for the city police, not the university police, according to court documents.
The two badges do not look alike, according to the FBI.
The Federal Protective Service has received heightened scrutiny in the wake of September’s massacre in the Washington Navy Yard when a civilian contractor with the Navy used his valid credentials to enter a government building and gun down 12 people. Four others were injured.
The Federal Protective Service was not involved with security at the Navy Yard, but the deadly incident renewed questions over security at other federal buildings across the country and whether the Federal Protective Service was fit to protect the 9,600 federal buildings under its jurisdiction. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives held several hearings on the matter.
A government review of the agency last year found significant “challenges” in “some aspects of guards’ training,” noting that, “Screener training is essential to helping prevent unauthorized individuals and items from entering federal facilities.”
Current and former law enforcement officials, however, told ABC News the blame for the security lapse on Monday should sit with the university police for failing to retrieve Ramos’ ID, not the Federal Protective Service guard.
“No one’s going to be an expert on identifying every badge,” said one former official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “[Ramos allegedly] used a genuine ID, and that’s where things went bad.”
A current federal law enforcement official agreed, adding that the seemingly “valid” ID card would have had the effect of validating the fake badge Ramos was allegedly holding.
The former official said the FBI deserves credit for recognizing holes in Ramos’ alleged story and securing his gun.
Still, another current official said the whole incident “does seem alarming, and this could’ve been a very bad outcome.”
Several sources said officials at the federal building in Philadelphia are examining their security procedures in the wake of Monday’s incident, but changes are unlikely due to the high volume of law enforcement officers working in the building.
“We should always strive to figure out how to better respond to evolving security threats,” Sen. Carper said in his statement. “I look forward to receiving more information from Federal Protective Service and others about plans to address this incident and prevent similar incidents in the future.”
Ramos has been arrested and charged with bringing a firearm into a federal facility and making false statements to federal law enforcement. A hearing to discuss his competency for trial is expected in the coming days.
The University of Pennsylvania and its police department “are cooperating fully with the FBI in their investigation,” the university spokesman said.
A federal public defender representing Ramos declined to comment for this article. An FBI spokeswoman also declined to comment.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
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