Yesterday, I had the Oklahoma State Senate’s side of the story about asking
members of the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association to remove their weapons while inside the Senate gallery. Sheriff Colbert has a COMPLETELY different story.
Malia Bennett, Director of Communications for the Oklahoma Senate, told me personally yesterday (and see also information from her call to me this morning):
1) The Chief-of-Staff would not necessarily know that the armed Sheriffs were in the building, so when the Sgt-at-Arms realized there were armed individuals inside the Senate gallery, he (perhaps ‘they’) called them outside the Senate gallery where the Chief-of-Staff was called to sanction arms inside the chamber. The sanction was given.
2) No member of the U.S. Senate asked that the Sheriffs leave or be disarmed and the Senate does not have the authority to ask anyone to leave the building.
Ms. Bennett called back this morning to make clear that the Sgt-at-Arms may ask that a person leave the Senate chambers/gallery, but not the building.
According to Wagner County Sheriff Bob Colbert:
1) The Sheriffs checked-in as they entered the building, acknowledged that they were armed and were allowed to enter, as happens every time they are at the Oklahoma Capitol.
In this morning’s call from Ms. Bennett, she said that whatever happens at check-in, the Senate side is still not necessarily aware of armed individuals inside their area, unless a group planning to be there, as in the Sheriff’s Association, calls in advance and informs the Chief-of-Staff that they will be present.
2) Inside the gallery, several persons in the uniforms worn by the Sgt-at-Arms staff walked up and stood to the side and to the front of the Sheriffs.
3) A person in a red coat informed the Sheriffs that they could not be armed inside the gallery. The Sheriffs made it clear who they were, and were told that Senate leadership wanted them to leave (perhaps the chamber/gallery) OR LEAVE THEIR WEAPONS OUTSIDE THE GALLERY DOOR. They were told this twice.
Can you imagine a cache of weapons lying on he hall floor in the Capitol Building, and can you imagine the blowback on Sheriffs willing to do so.
…as required by law due to them being peace officers. That means they have to have the weapons on them and ready to take action if needed at any time. Source: TheOkieBlaze
That is when Sheriff Colbert and others decided to leave.
According to Colbert, the Sheriffs had already been on the House side, inside the gallery, with no incident. Ms. Bennett clarified this morning that what goes on, on the House side, does not govern the Senate side.
According to Oklahoma State Senator Randy Bass’s (D) office, the Sheriff’s were “unaware of this public safety restriction” and were asked to “step outside of the gallery.”
Ms. Bennett maintains that under Senate rules, no one can be armed inside the chambers/gallery unless, and until, it is cleared by the Chief-of-Staff, regardless of what happens at the initial check-in point. She maintains that the Sheriff’s Association was responsible for making those arrangements in advance. She maintains that it was the Sgt-at-Arms that took the action, not Senate Leadership.
Much more to this story. Read it TheOkieBlaze. Matthew Vermillion lives in Wagner County. Sheriff Bob Colbert is ‘his’ sheriff and he spoke with him personally. Cathy in Colbert’s office promised me a call-back yesterday, and I hope that happens. My sheriff, Stanley Glanz has not returned my call, which is business as usual for his Tulsa office. UPDATE 4:30 pm CDT 3/19/14 – Carrie from Sheriff Glanz’s office called, said he was out of the office but she confirmed that he did not attend the Oklahoma City State Capital meeting with the Sheriff’s Association. (Note that in the two posts listed below I identified a contact I had with “Matt” as a spokesman for the Senate Chief-of-Staff. That is incorrect, “Matt” reports to Malia Bennett.)
The question: Did a member(s) of the U.S. Senate ask these men to leave the gallery or was it only an action taken by the Sgt-at-Arms? Inquiring minds want to know.
Related and Background:
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