Lawton_From flooding to ice - Miss America to Extreme Makeover, 7News covered a lot of big local stories this year in Texoma. Chances are you'll remember them as 7News takes a look back at 2007.
The weather for the first half of '07 can be summed up in one word - wet. Just a couple of weeks into the New Year an ice storm blanketed Texoma leaving road conditions horrible, thousands without power, and schools closed for days forcing kids in Lawton to attend school on Saturday - not once, but twice.
Then came the floods. There were some in March, but by the time May arrived, too much rain meant serious flooding. But, it didn't stop in May - it happened again in June. Homes were destroyed and an entire neighborhood was evacuated. Dasharey Howeth was forced to evacuate Garden Village in Lawton. "It's been kind of crazy. Everybody's leaving, and the water keeps coming. Me and my sister measured just a minute ago it's about 10 inches deep." To make matters worse, a water main broke during the floods and wiped out water service to Lawton's East Side.
In August ground was broken for one of the most visible signs of BRAC changes at Fort Sill - the $215M Air Defense Artillery Complex to replace the one at Fort Bliss, Texas. It's expected to be completed by September 2009.
Also in August weapon's maker BAE Systems broke ground on a 150,000 square foot facility in Elgin that will be used to build the Non Line of Sight Cannon. "I think what's happening down in Elgin is one of the most significant things to happen in the state of Oklahoma for the last ten years," says Sen. Jim Inhofe. The NLOS project is expected to bring as many as 200 jobs to the area.
Lawton and the Gene Westbrook family took the national spotlight in February when Ty Penington and crew brought the hit show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" to town. Hundreds of volunteers joined the show's cast to demolish the Westbrook's home and build them a new one. "They're amazing," said Penington of the Westbrooks. "They've made it through something not many people have been through," he said. Now, they have a new home that's wheelchair friendly for Gene and son James who are both paralyzed.
7News brought you footage of Lawton city workers poisoning prairie dogs at Elmer Thomas Park and it caused a major uproar this year. It led to protests, heated city council debates, and even fines assessed by the State Department of Agriculture.
Prairie dogs weren't the city's only animal problems this year, though. Dog and cat owners and pet shop owners were upset after the City Council changed spay and neutering laws and licensing regulations. The council said it made the change to control pet overpopulation. Many waited outside the animal shelter in April to beat the registration deadline and pet shop owners fought the law until November when the council eased the requirements on who they could buy animals from.
Ricky Ray Malone was convicted and sentence to die for killing Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Nik Green the day after Christmas in 2003. But, in September, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Ricky Ray Malone's death sentence because of technical error during his trial.
District Attorney Robert Shulte described the brutality of the incident. "The act itself - a trooper, face down on the ground, praying, shot in the back of the head - shot in the back of the head twice - the second shot 11 seconds apart." Schulte says the penalty phase of Malone's trial will likely be re-tried in May of next year.
The search for a man accused of killing two kids in Tulsa made its way to Lawton in July. Authorities tracked Joshua Muller to Comanche County after they learned he used to live here. After running him out of a house, Muller hid in a field for three days as police, deputies and highway patrol troopers waited for him to give him self up.
A Lawton soldier made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in March. Army Specialist Wilfred Flores Junior was killed by an IED in Iraq. "He told me he wasn't happy about being in Iraq, but he said I love my job Mom, I really love my job," said his mother Vickey.
A Fort Sill soldier was killed in a training accident on post back in October. 19 year old Private Daniel Fisher was hit by machine gun fire during his sixth week of basic training. Fort Sill officials launched an investigation and found live ammunition was being used when it shouldn't have been.
Finally, Oklahomans celebrated 100 years of statehood during centennial events all across the state this year. Tax dollars paid for special centennial projects throughout Oklahoma, including a statehood day parade and historical reenactments in Guthrie - the state's original capitol.