2 honored for plane crash response
Officials from DPS, Austin teamed up after suicide attack
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.