WASHINGTON — The nation's capital is a flight-restricted zone, so the skies are quiet except for military and law enforcement helicopters.

Still, it's unusual to see a helicopter buzzing above the Lincoln Memorial.

What's even more unusual is watching a helicopter dive straight for crowd of hockey players gathered there.

That's why a video on Instagram posted Feb. 3 is so shocking.

The video shows five people playing ice hockey on the frozen-over Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, before being scared off by a low-flying helicopter headed straight for them.

***Warning: Video below contains some foul language.***

The Verify team received this video via Instagram with a request: "Is it legit? #verify."

Our team of researchers reached out to the person who posted the video, who wishes not to be named, confirmed he was one of the individuals passing around the puck.

"We went down there to play and take pictures. We drove down from Annapolis," he said.


The Instagram user did not share his name with the Verify team when we asked for it, but did give us permission to use his photo and the video in which he appears.

"We go every year, " he said. "Every year that it freezes over."

The video is from last winter, but resurfaced after this year's polar vortex.

Ice skating on the reflecting pool is prohibited and carries a $50 citation or arrest, according to U.S. Park Police spokesperson Sgt. Eduardo Delgado.

Back in the 20s and 30s, however, the monument was unofficially used as community ice rink in the winter. 

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

"Me and my Army buddy didn't know it was illegal," the Instagram user said, though he also claimed that before the helicopter incident, "police asked us to leave several times."

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool water depth is 12 inches around the edges, and 2.5 feet in the middle, according to National Park Service report.

We cross-checked with Park Police, who confirmed the incident did take place, that it was, in fact, a U.S. Park Police Aviation Unit helicopter, and that they have launched an internal investigation as to why a chopper was used.

A spokesperson sent the Verify team this statement:

"In this incident, several individuals were observed ice skating on the eastern end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Park regulations prohibit skating on the reflecting pool. However, we understand that the means by which the pilot chose to enforce those regulations appears inappropriate. U.S. Park Police officers hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and strive to ensure that any contact with the public is respectful and appropriate. As such, we have initiated an internal investigation into the actions of our pilot."

The U.S. Park Police Aviation Unit began in 1973 and is tasked with supporting "law enforcement, Medevac, search and rescue, high-risk prisoner transport, and presidential and dignitary security," according to their website.

It is still unknown whether the pilot will be disciplined.

So we can Verify, yes, according to U.S. Park Police, a helicopter was used to scare ice skaters off the frozen reflecting pool.

When Verify researchers called into Park Police to inquire about the incident, we were told they were in a meeting at that time, discussing how to respond to our questions.