Tulsa County sheriff, deputies evacuated after blast at law enforcement convention
BY Staff and Wire Reports
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
6/20/12 at 11:55 AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz and five sheriff's officers were among 5,000 guests who were evacuated Tuesday after an explosion during a law enforcement convention.
An equipment malfunction likely triggered the 8:15 p.m. blast at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in downtown Nashville, Tenn., but no injuries were reported.
Guests were allowed back inside the hotel early Wednesday, authorities said.
Glanz, Undersheriff Tim Albin, Sgt. Shannon Clark and the three deputies who were involved in the March 7 Tulsa County Courthouse shooting - David Fortenberry, Stephen Culley and Cpl. Dennis Miller - were attending the 2012 National Sheriff's Association convention.
Glanz is on the association's board of directors, and the other local officers were attending a panel about courthouse shootings, Clark said.
"We were maybe 40 feet above it on the second story," he said. "You heard this really crazy rumble and the floor just vibrated, and there was a huge gust of wind that blew us all off the railing.
"You saw the dust and debris in the air, and I was like, 'wow.'"
He said authorities initially feared that it was a terrorist attack because several high-level officials, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, were attending the convention.
"Everybody went into full cop mode when it happened," Clark said. "It was an intense moment there for a little while."
Capt. Ken Walburn of the Nashville Fire Department said it appeared that a gas leak was ignited inside a mechanical room on the first floor, causing significant damage to an escalator, walls and ceiling. He said the blast was so strong it damaged ceiling tiles on the third floor of the convention center.
Walburn said the cause of the fire was investigated by the state bomb and arson squad, along with FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but suspicious activity was ruled out.
Hundreds of sheriffs from around the country were staying at the facility for the convention.
Sheriff Stanley Glanz speaks in a press conference back in 2010. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World File