|Submitted photo / Red Dirt Report|
One of the numerous federal law enforcement vehicles parked in one of the parking lots at Tulsa Community College (9/18/12).
By Andrew W. Griffin
Red Dirt Report, editor
Posted: September 20, 2012
TULSA, Okla. – Earlier this week, students at Tulsa Community College’s downtown campus were surprised to see dozens of vehicles from various law enforcement agencies – local, state and federal – parked in lots at the school, and little explanation about their presence by school administrators.
Late Wednesday, Red Dirt Report received a tip that Tulsa Police Department, Department of Homeland Security and FEMA officers, among others, were gathered at a building at the downtown campus of Tulsa Community College on Tuesday, Sept. 18, taking parking spaces from fee-paying students who were then forced to park at meters in the vicinity of 10th and Boston streets.
Seeking more information, Red Dirt Report called the Tulsa Police Department, Oklahoma Department of Homeland Security, and even the Tulsa World newspaper, seeking answers.
While getting information was more difficult than it probably should have been, on Thursday, Red Dirt Report spoke to Jamie Ott, the deputy director of the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency. The gathering, Ott said, was a “training session.”
“It was an active shooter presentation,” Ott explained. “It included local area law enforcement, security agencies, schools, private schools … and it was to give them a high-level orientation on active shooters in a business. It gave them recommendations on how to write plans.”
The session, Ott said, was much of Tuesday, from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Asked if the training session that attracted so many law enforcement agencies was promoted in the media, Ott said was “was not sure how they got the word out.”
When we explained that students were forced to park at meters and were told to leave the premises when they inquired about what was going on, Ott replied, “I wasn’t aware of that.”
Inquiring further about the nature of the day-long training session, Ott admitted he wasn’t entirely prepared to answer my questions but he explained that it was to train law enforcement and others about what to do if an “active shooter” shows up in your business, with a weapon, and recommendations on “how they should approach it and what to expect.”
Concluded Ott: “It was just a training session.”
We asked for a full list of all the participating agencies at Tuesday’s “training session.” Ott replied that he “wouldn’t have that information.”
When we asked if the Tulsa Police Department had participated, initially spokesperson Officer Jillian Robertson said she was unaware of TPD being involved. But when Ott confirmed that TPD was on site, we called Robertson back and she confirmed that they were there after all and that they attend training sessions like this “all over the city” and that “this one just happened to be at TCC.”
We placed calls to the Oklahoma Department of Homeland Security, seeking to talk to Kim Carter, the director in Oklahoma City. He was unavailable as of late Thursday afternoon.
We did, however, find DHS.gov’s link to their official “ACTIVE SHOOTER: HOW TO RESPOND” booklet that they use at these training sessions. We assume this is taking place due to the uptick in mass shootings in recent months.
And strangely, when we spoke to Tulsa World assistant editor Mary Bishop about the activities at TCC and if the newspaper had or planned to report on this event, Bishop replied that “it was in the past” and they would likely not report on it.
And talking to one of the people who alerted us to this unusual activity, a TCC student who wishes to remain anonymous, we were told that on the day of the “training session,” one of the student’s professors sent the class home because the Internet connectivity at TCC was not working properly and no one knew why.
The student said this “loss of Internet connectivity” happened after they approached one of the buildings where the training was taking place. And the student was struck by how rudely the DHS staff treated them when they asked simple questions about their presence on campus.
“They weren’t very nice about it,” the student said. “They told me ‘it’s closed to the public and students aren’t invited and you need to leave.’”
And regarding the parking situation, the student said these law enforcement vehicles “took up most of the lot.”
“I find it strange that that my school can allow this. Even worse is they let them basically take over a parking lot at the busiest time of day for classes, and some students had to park at meters and pay, even though part of our semester fees are to use those lots,” the student told Red Dirt Report.
The TCC student said that as they left the downtown TCC campus, they were startled to see a military helicopter hovering over the nearby Arkansas River, slowly flying south.
“It looked like a typical military helicopter,” the student said. “It was flying pretty low.”
Added the student: “It didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere.”
As the student watched the chopper from their car, they glimpsed a guy standing near the river bridge with a device, looking as though he was controlling a small, remote-control plane.
“I saw the plane after it glinted in the sun,” the student said.
So, were all these events connected?
“I can’t call it connected,” the student said. “Coincidence or not.”
The student who relayed this information to Red Dirt Report also said that they had left TCC campus early once again. This time “an alarm went off and there was an emergency to evacuate.”
“I guess there’s a chance a kid pulled a fire alarm,” the student noted.
So, what is Tulsa Community College’s position on the unusual activity taking place at their downtown campus as of late? It’s pretty much a position of indifference. Speaking with TCC’s Vice President of External Affairs Lauren Brookey, she said in the 12 years she has worked there she has never answered a call quite like the one Red Dirt Report had with her.
And we were asking some simple straightforward questions: What was TCC’s role in the active shooter “training session.” Why weren’t students informed of the virtual taking over of one of their campus buildings by law enforcement and others. Why do you not think this is news?
Brookey, meanwhile, said “this is the first I’ve heard of this” in regards to the “training session.”
“We’re a public institution. We have to accommodate all groups, including students,” Brookey said. “I don’t know what the challenge is. We have training sessions all the time.”
Brookey seemed flustered as we asked our questions, with one of her remarks being that she had never before heard of Red Dirt Report. Of course that shouldn’t matter. The public has a right to know what is going on at a public institution.
Later, Brookey called RDR, leaving us the following message about what took place at TCC’s “Center for Creativity,” the campus facility that hosted the Homeland Security training event.
Said Brookey: We have events in that facility on a nearly daily basis. It’s a public event site. We did have about 100-plus individuals from Homeland Security for training. And we have multiple parking areas around our Center for Creativity. There’s also church overflow parking. We don’t as a matter of course identify events in our C4C in advance for students because we have sufficient overflow parking around the Metro campus. There would have been no reason for students to encounter somebody from Homeland Security unless they walked in on the actual event because the elevators to classrooms are isolated from our event space.”
Brookey continued: “There should have been no reason for them to co-mingle. The answer is affirmative. We did have an event for training for Homeland Security at TCC on Tuesday and that’s kind of a natural course of events for us because that’s an event space.”
It should be noted that these “training sessions” are becoming increasingly common as local police are further “militarized.” This video, linked at Infowars.com last week and titled “Citizen-journalist confronts militarized cops,” was filmed at a college campus in Cincinnati, Ohio.
While the reporter talks to a SWAT team member he encounters, he questions why the police, in black uniforms are training on a college campus.
The reporter asks if this training is specific to that campus or if it is happening all over the country. The SWAT team guy with the shaved head says it’s “all over.”
That prompts the reporter to respond: “It’s kind of strange.”
“Why?” asks the cop.
“A police force on a college campus? In these times? It’s a little weird. It’s a little intimidating for a college student, don’t you think?”
“Are you a college student?” he asks the reporter.
“Yes,” he replies.
“Then good luck with your studies,” the SWAT team member says before walking off.
But the enterprising reporter doesn’t give up. He continues asking questions of the SWAT member. The SWAT member, accompanied by Homeland Security agents, doesn’t like being questioned.
When the reporter asks more questions, the SWAT member barks: “We’re not here to be interrogated, we’re here to train. We’ve filled you in on what you need to know.”
Perhaps that’s why we have been unable to get more information on the details of this “training session” at Tulsa Community College.
Copyright 2012 Red Dirt Report