TULSA, Okla. (KXAN) — Police emphasized how officers did not hesitate to run toward shots being fired when they said a gunman went into a Tulsa clinic Wednesday and killed two doctors, a receptionist and a patient before turning the gun on himself.
Chief Wendell Franklin with the Tulsa Police Department credited the preparation his officers had when describing how they responded to the shooting at a Saint Francis Health Systems medical building.
“Our training led us to take immediate action without hesitation. That’s exactly what officers do, and that’s exactly what they did in this instance,” Franklin said at a news conference Thursday morning. “They had the right mindset framed and went into action and did a tremendous job.”
While the Tulsa police chief’s remarks included no direct mention of last week’s deadly school shooting in Uvalde, his comments about his own officers’ response contrast with what’s now known about how law enforcement handled the Texas attack.
The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety stated at least 19 officers waited almost an hour to breach a classroom door at Robb Elementary School where a shooter locked himself inside and killed 19 children and two teachers. That decision to wait countered what the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District officers learned at an active shooter training they attended about two months before the deadly shooting happened, as KXAN’s investigative team recently uncovered. The training material states, “A first responder unwilling to place the lives of the innocent above their own safety should consider another career field.”
The group sanctioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide law enforcement active shooter training at Texas State University put out its own statement saying its instruction and response protocols remain unchanged following the tragedy in Uvalde. In a Facebook post Tuesday, Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) said the school shooting “reinforces the need for constant training, correct equipment, and competent leadership.”
“If the attacker is not accessible through the primary access point, the officers should seek alternatives,” the ALERRT post read. “These could include utilizing other access points (such as going through adjoining rooms), engaging the suspect through a window, or even breaking through drywall or other construction materials.”
How Tulsa police say they responded
Regarding the shooting in Tulsa, Chief Franklin said the first officers went into the medical building within minutes of receiving the first 911 calls advising of an “active shooter” at a clinic on the second floor. He explained when they get a call like that, an alert immediately goes out for every available officer to respond, too.
“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 said. “Our philosophy is ‘We will stop the threat, and we will do that by any means necessary.'”
He said officers are trained to “move rapidly” toward the sound of any shots being fired. However, he said if they’re not hearing any, then they have to look for signs of a shooting and “be more methodical” in their approach.
“They saw broken glass. They saw solid shell casings. They were following those shell casings around and began yelling, ‘Tulsa police, Tulsa police,'” Franklin said. “It was then that they heard that final gunshot. They rapidly moved to the area where they heard the final gunshot.”
Police said they believe that gunshot they heard was when the shooter took his own life. Officers said they found his body along with a note.
“We have also found a letter on the suspect, which made it clear that he came in with the intent to kill Dr. Phillips and anyone who got in his way,” Franklin said. “He blamed Dr. Phillips for the ongoing pain following the surgery.”
Police identified Dr. Preston Phillips, an orthopedic surgeon, as one of the shooting victims. They said the shooter went to him on May 19 to have back surgery and kept complaining to the doctor’s office about ongoing pain after his release from the hospital on May 24. Phillips saw the suspect again for additional treatment the day before the shooting happened, police said. He also called Phillips’ office the day of the shooting.
Police said the others killed included Dr. Stephanie Husen, receptionist Amanda Glenn and patient William Love.
The police chief shared the suspect legally bought a semiautomatic handgun on May 29 and then purchased an AR-15 at a local gun store Wednesday a little more than an hour before the shooting began.
The 18-year-old gunman in Uvalde also used an AR-15, investigators said.
Chief Franklin would not comment Thursday on what types of policy changes are needed to prevent a deadly mass shooting from happening again.
“I go out, and I execute the law. There are legislators that legislate the law, that create the law,” Franklin said. “I am more than happy to work with legislators if they want to bend my ear from a law enforcement perspective and ask what we need. I am more than willing to sit down and provide that information to legislators.”