The latest Secret Service scandal has raised an unusual question: How does an agent manage to leave a stray bullet behind?
The issue comes up in the case of two senior supervisors removed from President Obama's protective detail after one of the men allegedly left a Secret Service bullet in the room of a woman he met at the Hay-Adams Hotel bar last May.
According to two former Secret Service agents, who have worked with Zamora, the answer is straightforward: Senior supervisor Ignacio Zamora Jr. was likely attempting to clear a round from the chamber of his Service-issued Sig Sauer P229 semiautomatic pistol in order to secure it after joining the woman in her room.
The agency's standard operating procedure requires that all armed agents carry their weapon with a fully loaded magazine of 12 bullets, along with a thirteenth round already loaded in the chamber and ready to fire, the former agents said. There is no safety device on the weapons because they must be ready in case of emergencies, they said.
One person who was briefed on the details of the case confirmed that Zamora had been attempting to secure the weapon after the woman expressed discomfort with it. She later asked him to leave, which he did before realizing he had left the bullet behind, the person said. His attempt to retrieve it alarmed hotel management, which contacted the Secret Service.
A broader review of Zamora's conduct found that he and another male supervisor had been sending improper emails to a female subordinate, leading to their removal from the protective detail.
The two former agents said that losing a single bullet would not have resulted in major recriminations inside the Secret Service. They said managers did not account for each bullet issued to agents, who often have three or four boxes of ammunition.
However, if the bullet were found in the room and identified as coming from Zamora's stash, it could raise difficult questions, the agents said.