California National Guard members say a fighter jet was put on standby for a "possible domestic mission" last year, raising concerns that the military could be used to disperse protesters in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report.
Four National Guard sources spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the matter, revealing that commanders were concerned about resistance to stay-at-home orders or chaos due to panic-buying.
According to the sources, an F-15C fighter was put on alert, which raised concerns among Guard members that the jet could be used to "buzz" crowds -- a tactic often used in combat zones to disperse the enemy.
The orders were allegedly handed down orally or through text messages rather than formally in writing, which made them highly unusual, the sources told the Times. The Guard members described such a tactic as an "inappropriate" use of military force against U.S. citizens.
"It would have been a completely illegal order that disgraced the military," one source told the Times. "It could look like we’re threatening civilians."
"That’s something that would happen in the Soviet Union," said a second of the Times’ sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from superiors. "Our military is used to combat foreign aggressors."
The California National Guard did not return Fox News' request for comment.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma, a spokesperson for the California Guard, denied the reports, telling the Times: "We do not use our planes to frighten or intimidate civilians."
The National Guard was used heavily over the past year, first deploying during nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, then again in D.C. after the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Some states even deployed their National Guard units ahead of events such as the presidential debates.
The use of Guard units in each case stirred strong debate, with some states refusing to use them over concerns that it was a heavy-handed response to the events. However, others -- including former President Donald Trump -- criticized Democratic mayors and governors for refusing to use the Guard to handle riots and looting in the summer.
"You look at what happened in Minnesota, they were getting decimated and then after three days of watching it, I demanded that the National Guard be utilized and in one day it was over," Trump said on "The Brian Kilmeade Show" in June 2020.
Documents from the Guard indicate that officers discussed a similar F-15C use during both the summer protests and immediately after the November presidential election.
"It’s a war machine, not something you use for [suppressing] civil unrest," a third source told the Times.