2 hon­ored for plane crash re­sponse

Of­fi­cials from DPS, Austin teamed up af­ter sui­cide at­tack

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Mike Ward mward@states­man.com

Austin po­lice Lt. Mark Spangler and Pa­tri­cia Nunez, an in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst with the Texas Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety, were rec­og­nized at DPS head­quar­ters Thurs­day for their ac­cu­rate first re­sponse to a sui­cide pi­lot’s crash into a North­west Austin build­ing in Fe­bru­ary.

Two po­lice of­fi­cials who helped ex­pe­dite an ac­cu­rate first re­sponse to Fe­bru­ary’s at­tack on a North­west Austin of­fice tower by sui­cide pi­lot An­drew Joseph Stack III were hon­ored Thurs­day for their fast ac­tions.

The work by Austin po­lice Lt. Mark Spangler and Pa­tri­cia Nunez, an in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst with the Texas Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety, helped fed­eral, state and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties pro­vide a cor­rect and proper re­sponse, said Bart John­son, prin­ci­pal deputy un­der­sec­re­tary for in­tel­li­gence and anal­y­sis at the fed­eral Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

Spangler, a 24-year po­lice vet­eran, is fu­sion cen­ter di­rec­tor of the Austin Re­gional In­tel­li­gence Cen­ter, an in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing project that is sched­uled to open in com­ing months, and Nunez, a 38-year DPS vet­eran, is di­rec­tor of the Texas Fu­sion Cen­ter’s 24/7 in­tel­li­gence watch.

Both cen­ters are at DPS head­quar­ters on North La­mar Boule­vard, of­fi­cials said.

Of­fi­cials said the awards high­light the need for fu­sion cen­ters, which have sprung up across the nation since the 2001 ter­ror­ist attacks to al­low for cen­tral­ized in­for­ma­tion-gath­er­ing and shar­ing in emer­gen­cies.

“The abil­ity to pass along cor­rect in­for­ma­tion (about the crash) in a timely man­ner saved valu­able re­sources of var­i­ous agen­cies,” Spangler said, and al­lowed au­thor­i­ties who ini­tially feared that the at­tack might be an act of ter­ror­ism to quickly learn that it was a sui­cide by a man an­gry at the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice.

John­son, a for­mer New York state po­lice of­fi­cer, ac­knowl­edged that when he was first alerted to the crash, he im­me­di­ately thought it might be an­other World Trade Cen­ter-style ter­ror at­tack.

“This sit­u­a­tion demon­strates how im­por­tant the timely shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion is,” John­son said. “These are two in­di­vid­u­als who re­ally got it done.”

Min­utes af­ter Austin po­lice were alerted to the crash by a 911 call, Spangler said he and Nunez be­gan com­mu­ni­cat­ing up­dates back and forth that con­tained the lat­est, ver­i­fied de­tails from the scene — and in­for­ma­tion about Stack and his pos­si­ble mo­tives.

Had that in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing not been han­dled so ex­pe­di­tiously, of­fi­cials said, fed­eral au­thor­i­ties might have raised the ter­ror alert level across the nation — a step that would have been costly to law en­force­ment agen­cies in both per­son­nel and re­sources.

Stack had posted a sui­cide note on the In­ter­net blam­ing his past trou­bles with the IRS for the at­tack.

On Feb. 18, Stack, a 53year-old soft­ware con­sul­tant, crashed his sin­gle-en­gine plane into the four-story Ech­e­lon I build­ing on Re­search Boule­vard (U.S. 183) near MoPac Boule­vard (Loop 1), which housed some IRS op­er­a­tions.

Stack and IRS man­ager Ver­non Hunter died in­stantly. Thir­teen other peo­ple were in­jured, two se­ri­ously.

John­son also con­grat­u­lated DPS Di­rec­tor Steve McCraw and Austin Po­lice Chief Art Acevedo for their sup­port of cre­at­ing a work­ing part­ner­ship be­tween their two agen­cies in the shared lo­ca­tion of their fu­sion cen­ters.

“There should be no doubt about the lead­er­ship be­ing in place in this state,” John­son said.

Jay Jan­ner

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