Base hospital leader: Teamwork ‘saved lives’ during shooter scare

Authorities are continuing to investigate what exactly led to multiple 911 calls reporting an active shooter and the response to those calls at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base last week.

The Air Force Office of Investigations is conducting the probe and though new information may not be released for weeks, details are still emerging about what happened in the aftermath of of the active shooter alarm.

The leader of the hospital at Wright-Patt where the active shooter alarm occurred Thursday said that teamwork and patience during the incident likely “saved lives.”

Col. Michael Foutch, commander of the 88th medical group at Wright-Patterson Medical Center, thanked workers via email a day after the scare at the hospital for their help on what he referred to as “a difficult and stressful day.” Base spokeswoman Marie Vanover verified the email obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

“Your action — across the Med Group and from our Base and County First Responders —kept this situation from getting further out of hand and likely saved lives,” Foutch wrote in a Friday email.

» RELATED: PTSD expert: People should recover quickly from Wright-Patt shooter scare

Around 12:40 p.m. Thursday, someone from inside Wright-Patterson Medical Center called 911 and that call was routed through the base’s command center. The call caused all base gates to temporarily close and resulted in upwards of 100 local, state and federal law enforcement officers to respond.

After the 911 call came in, security forces and the base fire department responded and conducted a sweep of the building.

In his email, Foutch invited medical center personnel to meet in an auditorium at 11 a.m. and again at noon to discuss the nearly three-hour active shooter scare. Foutch said he wanted to tell workers “what we’re doing about the incident going forward.”

He also said commanders would be gathering input from workers to analyze what procedures needed improvement upon reflection of Thursday’s incident.

“The will consolidate those inputs and get them to me next week so we can begin to work on processes, communications and times to improve safety in our workplace to mitigate such events from happening again,” Foutch wrote.

Foutch criticized the use of the terms “false alarm” and “non-event” to describe the shooting scare. Despite news reports, he wrote that commanders know there was “definitely a dangerous incident that happened” Thursday.

It will likely take around two weeks or so for people at Wright-Patt to move on from the shooter scare, said Kathy Platoni a psychologist for Dayton SWAT who was at Fort Hood in 2009 when a man shot and killed 13 people. Though the incident may have been “terrifying” to some at the base, Platoni encouraged people to talk about it to each other.

“I think people talking to one another and sharing their fears and concerns is probably the best medicine of all but these are all normal reactions,” she said.

» RELATED: Wright-Patt hospital: What we know about the base medical center

During their sweep of the medical center Thursday, security forces discharged a firearm in an attempt to breach a locked door, Col. Thomas Sherman said during a Thursday press conference.

Since then, no information has been released about the gunfire other than the base spokesman saying the person who shot the weapon in was still working.

Explaining why it will not release details on what led to the alarm and why the gun was fired at a locked door during the search, a spokeswoman for the Air Force office said in an email, “The legal process, as in justice actions, results from the investigation. Therefore, a precise timeline for concluding this investigation cannot be given yet.”

On Friday, the Dayton Daily News published photos from a woman inside the Medical Center during the incident. The woman’s photos show what appear to be bullet-sized holes in a wall next to a door.

“Make no mistake, these were real bullets that tore through the wall where we were hiding. That was real drywall we felt flying through the air. That was real terror that we felt,” the woman said on Facebook.

Another photo obtained from the Dayton Daily News appears to show a damaged printer with the Air Force logo on it in the same room that had bullet-sized holes in the wall. Base officials said they could not verify the photos until after an investigation is completed.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton called the use of the firearm to breach the door “highly unusual and highly questionable.” Turner said the use of a firearm by base security officials would “absolutely” be part of what officials would look at when scrutinizing the response to a false alarm that lasted more than three hours on Thursday.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on Tuesday said that when it comes to the active shooter scare “we don’t know the full story yet.” Investigators should only refrain from releasing certain details of the incident in the interest of national security or if they could personally harm law enforcement, he said.

“Other than that it should be known to the public, absolutely,” Brown said.


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Following the story

Then: A 911 call prompted emergency personnel to respond to an active shooter alarm at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Now: Air Force Office of Investigations is investigating the active shooter alarm.

Next: The Air Force office said it could take two weeks before details of the investigation will be released.

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