Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Dyersburg Tennessee Hostage Situation

[NOTE: I am appending updates directly to this post. Hit your "Refresh" button to see the latest entries farther down.]

NEW! See Harold Kilpatrick, Jr.'s jail photos. Includes the booking number for a previous arrest. Apparently, this is the photo many media outlets are using.

A man is holding up to twenty people hostage at Dyersburg State Community College as of 5PM local time. Dyersburg (set Zoom to 7) is a mid-sized town roughly 80 miles north of Memphis. It's a very nice place, a sleepy Southern town.

The standoff started shortly after lunch. So far, no one is known to be injured or killed. The man is believed to be armed with a handgun and is talking to police. SWAT teams are there, but no word on State or Federal assistance yet.

The Dyersburg-area paper can be found here.

Memphis television is all over this, obviously. You can find information at:

WREG Newschannel Three (CBS).
Memphis Commercial Appeal
WREC AM600 NewsRadio has a live webcast at this link.

The story is now on its own index page at CNN.
FOX has the story here.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 5:15PM Channel Three is now saying that the man is claiming to be Al Qaeda and he is on a suicide mission! Waiting for confirmation on this one. Also, the number of hostages has been lowered to 12 - 15.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 5:30PM WMC is also reporting the Al Qaeda/suicide angle now.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:00PM The hostage-taker has been identified as Harold Kilpatrick, 26; he is apparently not a student there, but recently moved there from Memphis. Hostages are now believed to number between 9 and 13.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:20PM More information on Kilpatrick: he had three Memphis warrants issued earlier today for aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping and reckless endangerment with a dangerous weapon, before he left for Dyersburg. Hostages are now numbered at 16. His family is now saying he has been "troubled" for the past several days.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:30PM Family is now talking with television. A photograph of Kilpatrick is now being shown.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:35PM All local television has returned to regular evening broadcasting. They promise to break in if events warrant.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:40PM ABC24 is reporting that Kilpatrick left a suicide note and has a live interview with some of his family on the scene. Several of the hostages have cell phones and are talking to police, but Kilpatrick is refusing to talk directly. Apparently, messages are being passed through the students.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 6:45PM The FOX news story can be found here. Sorry for the delay in posting the link.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 7:00PM Some more links:
Google News search
Dyersburg SORT (Special Operations Response Team) [Bottom of page has links to various City of Dyersburg Police Departments
An Associated Press story, via Kansas City Star
ABC News story
MSNBC story

INSTANT UPDATE -- 7:30PM No television updates happening, but this wouldn't be unusual in a hostage situation, which can go on for hours and hours.

More links:
Jonesboro, Arkansas, television station, KAIT 8, across the Mississippi from Dyersburg, has this story from early in the afternoon.
The UPI story from earlier today. [Note: The WashTimes home page has both AP and UPI Breaking News links.]
The Jackson Sun home page. Jackson is mid-way between Memphis and Nashville, along I-40, and southeast of Dyersburg.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 7:45PM Predictably, several print outlets have run with the Al Qaeda angle, but it is beginning to appear that this may have been a ruse by Kilpatrick to get instant attention.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 8:00PM It must be a big story, as all the television news outlets now have graphics with titles like "School Showdown" and "Hostage Crisis."

Some media outlets are reporting language from the suicide note Kilpatrick allegedly left. From WMC TV5:
Williamson added that the gunman left a suicide note at his sister's house, which said he "wanted to kill some people and die today." Kilpatrick also said in the note that he didn't like Americans and had spoken with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Williamson added that the subject claims to have ties to an international terror organization. The FBI has been called in, but Williamson said authorities have no reason to believe the claim. Justice Department officials in Washington also said they had no evidence to corroborate the man's claim to be a member of al-Qaida.
And as reported above, even though the Al Qaeda link is being pooh-poohed by the Justice Department in Washington, all local media outlets are still reporting it breathlessly.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 8:30PM As of this time, ABC24 has a picture of Kilpatrick on its home page.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 9:10PM FOX13 News, see link above, is reporting that the situation is settling in. Kilpatrick has ordered pizzas and cokes for the hostages. They are also reporting he has a "lengthy criminal record," though no details were given.

Sadly, Les Smith is reporting this story and is injecting a whole lot of opinion and "feature writer" type comment into the story. It's sloppy and deprecates the story.

They also interviewed a "former fiance," whose name I didn't catch (Jamaica Brown?), who said she thought he was still in a mental institution and wasn't aware he was out.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 9:20PM See Harold Kilpatrick's warrants, including his Dyersburg address and date of birth, here! Enter his name as above in the fields and hit "Submit." He now has five!

INSTANT UPDATE -- 9:45PM FOX13 now reporting that all police surrounding the Eller Building have stormed it. There are reports of shots fired. Two hostages were released about five minutes ago, then an ambulance gurney went in. Shortly afterward, the police went in.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 9:45PM Only UPN30 (a rebranded ABC24 news broadcast, see link above) is now live on the scene with FOX 13. The major nets are still broadcasting regular prime-time programming.

Ah! ABC24 just went live as well. And now WREG Newschannel Three is briefly reporting the hostage situation is "over" before returning to regular programming.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 9:50PM ABC24 is now reporting that an ambulance "with oxygen tanks" is leaving the scene. They are also saying that an ambulance backed up to the front of the Eller Building and then a "flash" (possibly a stun grenade?) was seen.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 10:00PM Harold Kilpatrick was killed. The hostage situation is over. A news conference is underway right now.

Police Chief Williamson is saying that negotiations with Kilpatrick "broke down" and "he [Kilpatrick] began to shoot," at which point "his team [police] went in" and "we took him down."

INSTANT UPDATE -- 10:10PM ABC24 reporting two hostages were injured; they are not sure who was responsible as of yet. Both were female and one was shot in the leg.

FOX13 is reporting, through Kilpatrick's aunt and fiance, that he was off a medication he was supposed to be taking.

WMC is reporting that a woman hostage was having heart problems, which may have agitated Kilpatrick. A stretcher was called for and then shortly afterward the situation broke.

INSTANT UPDATE -- 10:15PM WMC now reporting that shots were heard in the classroom, at which point police entered the room firing. Kilpatrick was shot several times, though it's not clear if he had shot himself first.

Interesting note: No one else -- especially ABC24 which has been in full coverage mode for almost an hour -- except FOX13 is reporting the mental health angle, which seems to be coming from family. No has a clue yet why Kilpatrick went to DSCC, as he's not a student or employee there and seems to have no known connection.

FINAL UPDATE & SOME THOUGHTS -- 11:00PM The situation seems to have reached a resolution. Kilpatrick is dead; only reported injuries to two hostages do not seem severe. No reports of police injury.

There are some questions that beg answers tomorrow:
1. Why did Kilpatrick choose Dyersburg State Community College?
2. Kilpatrick had five warrants issued today in Memphis after he missed a court appearance. See the link above. What were the circumstances of the charges? When did they occur?
3. What was Kilpatrick's "lengthy criminal record?" What does it tell us about precursors to this situation? Was there any discernable warning?
4. Why did he flee Memphis for Dyersburg?
5. There are reports from family and a fiance that Kilpatrick was on medication and had been under the care of a mental health institution. How does this, if true, connect with his behavior today?

Check the Memphis Commercial Appeal on Thursday for early details. You can also try the Dyersburg State-Gazette. The Memphis television stations will have video archives of the final police action, especially ABC24, WPTY.

Kudos to WPTY for having the most coverage of this story. They went live around 9:30 and kept it up until 11:45; they also had an hour's coverage this afternoon when the story first broke. Other stations only had news-time coverage, choosing not to break prime-time. Shame on them.

Shame also to the Commercial Appeal whose only story online on the situation all day has been a rewritten version of the original AP story by Woody Baird! Even now, at 11PM, it's still all they've got. Can't anyone there manage to write up something, anything, in the eight hours since the story broke? Jeez.... The electronic age is just going to steamroller those green-eye-shaded old men at their ancient Smith-Coronas.

Whew! Long night tonight and a longer workday tomorrow. I hope this blog event was of some value to you, my cherished readers. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

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