Wichita Falls_A potentially dangerous standoff in Wichita Falls early Tuesday morning that brought out the Wichita Falls Police SWAT Team, ended without incident. Polcie say a new citywide alert system could be the reason. The incident began when police received a call about a man dragging a woman into a house on Augusta Lane. When the first officer arrived, he says he saw two men inside the house holding firearms, and put out a neighborhood alert.
The alert is called Code Red, and it's a tool the Wichita Falls Police and Emergency Management can use to call a citizen's telephone if there is potential danger. The alert can warn of a flood or tornado - or in Tuesday's case - a possible hostage situation in a particular neighborhood. "When the first officer got there, he began to assess the situation, and before even attempting contact with them, he was able to see through the windows that there were," said Wichita Falls Sergeant Joe Snyder. "Two subjects in there, and each of them was armed - one with a handgun, one with a shotgun."
The officer called for backup, and since police did not know the status of the woman who was inside the home, they also called in the SWAT Team. The department used Code Red to call residents who lived within a few blocks of the house. "We make an announcement that somewhere in your general area there may have been a reason that indoors is better for your safety," said Snyder. "The announcement that they got was, 'Please remain in your homes until you get an all-clear from us'."
Almost three hours later, the men inside the house surrendered to officers. In that time, some local media (not 7News) inadvertently made the Red Alert citywide during morning broadcasts, when in actuality, the system can pinpoint a particular location and specify a small area around the address to isolate emergency Red Alert calls. Snyder says the system still has glitches, but they are working them out. "We would much rather that too many people were notified of a dangerous situation than not enough, or none at all," he said.
Once the suspects surrendered, while searching for more weapons in the home, officers found a large amount of marijuana, and each of the three men inside were charged with possession.
Snyder says he recommends Wichita Falls residents sign up for Code Red even if they could be at work when an emergency occurs. "If you look at an office like this, if we don't have contact with the media during the day, and I don't have an exterior window, I might not know there's a weather event happening, so I'm subscribed to it," he said.
Code Red has been in action four times since Wichita Falls got it six months ago, and two alerts were for weather. The system has all area home phone number in its database, but the service will also call cell phones if there is an emergency. To sign up for cell phone alerts, visit www.cwftx.net.
The investigation into the hostage situation will determine whether the three men will face additional charges. The woman in the house was not injured.