Tulsa police found shooter within minutes; in Uvalde, they waited
Police officers’ response to a gunman inside a Tulsa health clinic on Wednesday appears to starkly contrast with how officers responded to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a week earlier.
At a news conference on Thursday, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said police moved in quickly when a gunman began firing inside the Natalie Building on the Saint Francis Health System campus. They reached the shooter’s location within six minutes of the first 911 call.
In Uvalde, local police have been criticized for their response. Officials there have provided conflicting reports, but it appears that the shooter was inside the school for more than an hour before federal agents confronted the shooter and killed him.
While Franklin did not mention Uvalde, he repeatedly highlighted his agency’s training and active shooter philosophy that quickly led police to the second floor of the Natalie Building.
The shooter killed himself as police approached his location.
“When we get that call, we are going to disregard any safety measures that we might have for ourselves and we’re going to go in the building to deal with the threat,” Franklin told reporters. “Our philosophy is we will stop the threat and we will do that by any means necessary. That’s exactly what the mindset of these officers were that responded on the scene yesterday, and they performed heroically in my opinion.”
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The ubiquity and danger of active shooter situations has led to decades of training on the best way for law enforcement to respond. After the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, it became clear that setting up a perimeter and waiting for highly trained and armed response teams simply was not good enough.
As the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center notes in a research paper analyzing the history of police response, patrol officers shouldn’t wait for SWAT.
“Following Columbine, responding officers now were expected to stop the killing of innocent people, which required officers to quickly get to the attack scene and confront the shooter,” wrote the paper’s authors.
In Tulsa, it appears this is exactly what happened. Franklin said that officers are trained to move rapidly in the direction of gunshots.
“Our training led us to take immediate action, without hesitation.”
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Eight days earlier, some police managed to get inside Uvalde’s Robb Elementary school where 19 children and two teachers died, but they were told to stop before they reached the suspect. The Texas Public Safety Department later reported that the incident commander on scene believed no more lives were at risk and they were now dealing with a barricaded suspect, not an active shooter.
ALERRT’s research also found that nearly half of all workplace active shooter incidents end only after police arrive.
During his remarks Thursday, Tulsa’s police chief said time is of the essence.
“We believe we have to stop that threat and do it immediately,” Franklin said. “We are trained to go in there and stop the threat regardless of what may happen to us, and that’s what our officers did. We have no reason to believe that he was going to stop.”
Timeline of the shooting
4:52 p.m.: Dispatchers receive the first of several 911 calls as the shooter, Michael Louis, moves between offices looking for his intended target.
4:56 p.m.: The first officers arrive on scene to the five-story building, a location that Franklin described as a “complex environment” for responding to an active shooter.
4:58 p.m.: Police hear the final gunshot as they approach the suspect’s location on the second floor. He is found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.
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Louis killed four other people: Dr. Stephanie Husen, receptionist Amanda Glenn, clinic visitor William Love, and Dr. Preston Phillips, who had recently performed surgery on Louis.
In Tulsa, all on-duty and off-duty police officers were notified through an emergency alert system. The system also sends a notification to specialized response teams and other area law enforcement who can provide help immediately.
Franklin said his officers directed paramedics to help victims while they were still clearing the area.
“We can go into what we call a hot environment with medical personnel and fire personnel and start rendering aid,” he said.
“I cannot emphasize enough that we train rigorously over and over and over again for not if, but when, because we have seen the violence that has taken place throughout the United States, and we would be naive to think that would not happen in our jurisdiction.”
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Staff writer Dale Denwalt covers Oklahoma’s economy and business news for The Oklahoman. Have a story idea for Dale? He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @denwalt. Support Dale’s work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at subscribe.oklahoman.com.