By Kari Hawkins, Redstone RocketJune 13, 2008
Redstone Arsenal's commander publicly sent his condolences last week to the family of the Marshall Space Flight Center engineer who was killed May 30 when a Huntsville Police Department high-speed car chase ended in a multi-car collision on the Arsenal at the intersection of Martin and Rideout roads.
"All of us are saddened by what occurred," Maj. Gen. Jim Myles said.
Darren Spurlock, 39, was killed in the collision and several others were injured when Huntsville police chased a car driven by Valerie Cox, 35, after drug agents tried to serve her a warrant in southwest Huntsville. Paulette Woodall, 36, was a passenger in the vehicle.
During the chase, Cox sped through the concrete barrier at Gate 1 and sped about four miles down Martin Road. Local law enforcement has a memorandum of agreement with the Army that allows them to continue chases onto federal property until Redstone Police assume jurisdiction.
In both an e-mail to Team Redstone employees and in a June 2 press conference, Myles said he and Arsenal officials will conduct a thorough internal investigation of the incident, and that providing a safe and secure work environment for Team Redstone employees is a top priority.
Describing May 30 as a "tough day for the Redstone family," Myles told local media June 2 that the incident "represents a significant challenge" to the Arsenal's safe and secure work environment.
A thorough investigation will provide authorities with information on what can be done to "possibly prevent another incident from occurring," Myles said.
"We want to tell the work force here that we understand what has occurred," he added. "We are taking all actions needed to mitigate what happened and to ensure the safety of the people who live and work on Redstone Arsenal."
Currently, only Gates 9 (Research Park Boulevard/Rideout Road) and 3 (Redstone Road) feature a full spectrum of security measures that meet Department of Defense standards. Three other gates - Gate 1 at Martin Road, Gate 8 at Drake Avenue and Gate 10 at Patton Road - while still meeting standards, are scheduled to be upgraded with those same security measures starting in the next 30 days. Those projects were planned before the May 30 incident.
Beyond such security measures, Arsenal officials will also look at the timeline of the incident and the communications that were ongoing between Arsenal security officials and Huntsville police.
"It is clear to me they (Huntsville police) made a call," Myles said. "The question is 'Did it come soon enough to take action'' The timeline was tight because of the high speed. It presented a pretty big challenge."
Officials now know that due to the short time lapse and the speed of the suspect vehicle, Redstone Police and the guards at the gate did not receive the notification before the arrival of the suspects at Gate 1. Huntsville Police Department officials have agreed to notify Redstone Arsenal anytime there is a pursuit near Arsenal boundaries.
Myles said that, although gate security is key, it's only one element of an overarching force protection strategy.
"There's a multi-layered approach to Force Protection and security on this post," he said. "Stopping a terrorist (or anyone without authorization to enter the installation) is not just about securing a gate; it's about understanding the threat to the installation."
Myles explained that it's hard to stop a terrorist incident unless you know a terrorist is there, the type of terrorist, and his or her intent. That's why Arsenal officials partner closely with federal organizations that are responsible for monitoring terrorism in the United States.
While the guards are authorized to use deadly force, Myles said, their response on May 30 was measured, appropriate and in accordance with the rules of engagement.
"They did not need to heighten the incident occurring at that moment," he said. "They didn't have enough information to say 'I think I'll pull my weapon out and shoot because they're trying to go through the gate.'"
There's a delicate balance in getting 48,000 cars on and off the installation each day while maintaining the right level of security.
"I want people to walk away with the same feeling I have," Myles said. "I believe this is a secure post, but at the same time, it will never become an armed camp like at FOB (forward operating base) Victory in Iraq."