Build during World War II, the federal Lake City Ammunition Plant in Independence, Mo., has made nearly all the rifle cartridges used by the U.S. military since it pulled out of Vietnam. The factory has pumped billions of rounds of military-grade ammunition into the commercial market, the New York Times reports, leaving the “LC” signature scattered across crime scenes, including the sites of mass shootings. The plant, operated by a private contractor with Army oversight, is now one of the biggest U.S. manufacturers of commercial rounds for the popular AR-15. The vast majority of Lake City rounds sold by retailers go to law-abiding citizens, including hunters, farmers and target shooters. Some are drawn to them because they are made with the same materials and to the same specifications as the military’s. Others see them as an authentic accessory for their tactical weapons and gear.
More than one million pages of search warrants, police evidence logs, ballistic reports, forfeiture records and court proceedings show how Lake City ammunition has cut a criminal path across nearly all 50 states. A former Marine used Lake City rounds in the murder of two police officers and a deputy sheriff in Louisiana. The police recovered Lake City casings after a former justice of the peace killed a Texas district attorney and his wife. In Washington, D.C., gang-related gunfire left the courtyard of an apartment complex littered with more than 40 “LC” casings and a 10-year-old girl dead. Lake City rounds have been seized from drug dealers, violent felons, antigovernment groups, rioters at the U.S. Capitol and smugglers for Mexican cartels. They were confiscated from a man in Massachusetts who threatened to assassinate President Obama and from a man at Los Angeles International Airport after he fired at a civilian and three T.S.A. agents, killing one.