I had tagged this story last week as a possible subject for a post, but never got to it…
From ABC-13 News, Jessica Willey reporting, we learned [worth quoting in full]:
HOUSTON (KTRK) — The sight of Army helicopters and the sound of gunfire created a lot of concern Monday afternoon in one Houston neighborhood.
We received a lot of phones calls, Tweets and Facebook posts from worried neighbors, wondering what was going on.
SkyEye 13 HD was over the south side where at first look, it appeared there was a massive SWAT scene happening.
With military helicopters flying above her southeast Houston neighborhood, Frances Jerrals didn’t know what to think.
"When you see this, you think the worst. When you hear this, you think the worst," Jerrals said.
And so, she passed along her concern.
"She told me ‘don’t come home it sounds like we’re in a war zone. Guns, shooting, helicopters flying around the house,’" Isaac Robertson Jr. said.
The U.S. Army along with other agencies took over the old Carnegie Vanguard High School near Scott and Airport. There were armed men in fatigues, plenty of weapons and what many thought were real live rounds
"I felt like I was in a warzone." Jerrals said. "It was nonstop. I was terrified."
Turns out, it was a multi-agency training drill that Jerrals wished would have come with warning.
"They could have done a better job in notifying the neighborhood," Jerrals said.
The Army did not give any details of what the training is for. Some people we spoke to needed no explanation.
"If it’s to protect our kids, I’m all for it," neighbor Glenn DeWitt said.
As I was rereading this story today, I noticed it contained a sidebar link to this story from the same station on the same day by Kevin Quinn [also worth quoting in full][emphasis mine]:
HOUSTON (KTRK) — Loud gunfire, schools on temporary lockdown, helicopters flying overhead — what looked like a dangerous situation Monday was actually a drill.
Residents living on the south side of Houston said the training drill took them by surprise. They had plenty of questions about the drill and so did we.
We now know this was an exercise involving the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the Houston Police Department and other agencies. They won’t tell us exactly what they were doing, only that it was some kind of exercise to help them prepare for deployment in an urban environment.
If you didn’t know better you’d have thought Monday that something at the old Carnegie Vanguard School was horribly wrong. Unmarked helicopters flying low. Men in camouflage with guns. And gunfire. Or what sounded like it. Eyewitnesses say lots of gunfire.
"We didn’t know so we all ran and hid. Because it sounded like the world was coming to an end," said eyewitness Yvette Cavitt.
She says she’s a heart patient and that lying in a bathtub out of fear that she’d be shot didn’t do much for her well-being.
"That was horrible. They should have forewarned us," Cavitt said.
Houston Council Member Wanda Adams agrees. The exercise was in her district and even she wasn’t warned.
"They should have notified us on this magnitude. They should have let somebody know," said Adams.
The Houston Fire Department wasn’t told; it responded to all the radio traffic about shots being fired. Even the mayor’s office says it was not notified. And even though there have been reports of other police and military training exercises around the country.
The Houston Police Department refused to talk on camera, instead issuing a statement that read in part, "We apologize for the lack of communication ahead of time."
The department admits local leaders were not notified prior to the exercise. Both police and an Army representative tell Eyewitness News that they feared notifying folks ahead of time could cause panic. They also say they were trying to keep curious onlookers away and publicizing the training beforehand, they felt, could only attract attention.
But try telling that to neighbors who now struggle with how they will react the next time they see men running around with guns, not knowing if they are friend or foe.
The school is still owned by the Houston Independent School District. Even though it gave the Army permission to use the campus, apparently word did not make it to at least one nearby school, which was placed on lockdown for a portion of the school day.
‘Both police and an Army representative…feared notifying folks ahead of time could cause panic’ — huh??? That doesn’t make a damn sense.
The residents of Houston should demand that all information regarding the reasons for this exercise and how the decision to keep it secret were made.
What the Hell is going on here?
The police, the Army, the bureaucrats, and the elected officials work for us. It’s about time we got up off of our fat arses and remembered that.