By James Beaty
Helicopters whirred high overhead at McAlester’s Southeast Expo Center as state police rappelled to the ground far below.
Later, as two men with shovels walked through a wooded and weeded area on the south side of the Pittsburg County Fairgrounds, camouflaged law enforcement officers wielding firearms jumped up and yelled they were under arrest.
Soon afterwards, another officer threw a loud flash-bang device beside a building before he and other officers stormed inside, followed by the sounds of gunshots.
However, no one was really arrested and no bullets were fired. It was all part of an education day held in McAlester on Thursday by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, also known as the OBN.
All of the officers performed their tasks to an appreciative audience consisting mostly of local law enforcement officers, public officials and even some children who were invited along to watch. Some of the youngsters plugged their ears as the officers fired blanks, while others nonchalantly shot photos with their hand-held phones.
OBN Director Darrell Weaver made the trip to McAlester and personally introduced the various scenarios.
The officers in the camouflage had been dressed in so-called “ghillie suits,” which is a type of suit designed to resemble heavy foliage, such as high grass or weeds. In the weeds and wooded area south of a road at the fairgrounds, they had been almost undetectable from the side of the road.
In the other scenario, an OBN entry team followed in single file behind an officer hoisting a huge shield as they advanced on a building. They pretended to shoot one “perpetrator” — an individual who was acting the part — outside the building before tossing the flash bang devices and storming inside.
According to the scenario, one of their officers was “wounded” in the leg. His fellow officers carried him outside, applied a tourniquet, placed him in the back of a pickup truck and sped away, with overhead lights flashing.
Weaver said as OBN director, he works to eliminate all risk to his agents and their fellow law enforcement officers. However, it’s not possible to eliminate all risk, he noted.
“You prepare for the worst,” Weaver said. “The bottom line is, it will happen.”
Weaver said the OBN has trained emergency medical technicians accompanying agents “on everything we do.”
Among those attending the event and watching the scenarios were Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns and interim McAlester Police Chief Gary Wansick.
Kerns said the sheriff’s office and the OBN have been working more closely together recently. He attributed that to a couple of reasons: The OBN has been offering more assistance and the sheriff’s office has been requesting more help, especially in targeting bigger drug operations, he said.
During a break in the action, Weaver said he thought the morning in McAlester had gone well.
“I’m real pleased,” he said.
Weaver has given drug education a high priority.
“I believe drug issues have more damage than anything in Oklahoma,” he said.
Weaver maintains the education days conducted by the OBN around the state serve an important purpose.
“We’re educating the community about drug issues,” he said.
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org.