Arizona aftershock hits home

January 21, 2011

by Kelly Belton & Hayden Haynes, NEWS EDITOR & STAFF REPORTER

Following the Jan. 8 shooting and attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the security of lawmakers and citizens at public events has become a concern to many across the country. 

Rep. John Fleming represents Louisiana’s 4th District, which includes Shreveport and the surrounding areas. He said he is in the district for about a week out of every month. 

While he said he has never been invited to Tech, Fleming attends back-to-back public events when he is in the Shreveport area. He once attended six town hall meetings in two days.

“For security reasons, I don’t want to get into details, but currently we usually have one or two armed deputies at public events,” Fleming said.

He also said private events create less of a security concern because out-of-place people are easier to spot.

“Right now, we are reviewing all of our security protocols, and that will be an ongoing process,” Fleming said. “We are currently receiving recommendations from the Sergeant of Arms and the Capitol Police.”

One of Giffords’ staffers was killed in the Tucson shooting, but Fleming said none of his staff have approached him with concerns.

Alexander’s role in Ruston, at Tech

Rep. Rodney Alexander represents Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Ruston.

 Alexander’s communication director, Jamie Hanks, said he is in the Ruston area multiple times per month and attends Tech events as often as his schedule allows. 

He was last at Tech in December for a small business symposium.

“Our D.C. and district staffs have been in contact with local, state and federal law enforcement,” Hanks said following the Jan. 8 shooting. “We are being briefed on such and are developing a plan to ensure that proper protections are in place for Congressman Alexander and staff members at future events.”

She also said the incident in Tucson will not affect the way Alexander does his job or his visits to Tech, but further safety precautions may be taken.

“Congressman Alexander has always been accessible to his constituents in the 5th District and will continue to do so,” Hanks said. “However, in light of this weekend’s horrible tragedy, it is imperative that we never take our personal security and liberties for granted.”

Student view of Congressman Alexander

David Hyde, a senior biomedical engineering major, said he attended a Financial Management Association meeting last spring where Rep. Alexander spoke. 

“In the FMA meeting, [Alexander] had three subordinates with him at all times, and they didn’t appear to be there for security,” Hyde said. “It was more of an entourage deal than someone trying to protect the congressman.”

He said the environment of the event was more of a classroom-type setting with relatively no worries about safety. Two police officers were in attendance.

“I had no security concerns either for the persons presenting or for the audience,” Hyde said.

However, since the Tucson shooting, he said he would be worried if he attended a similar event that had the same level of security.

“I would be more concerned about going to an event for the congressman,” Hyde said. “[A shooter] isn’t coming to shoot me; they’re coming for the congressman.”

He said if officers are effectively protecting the congressman, they are also protecting the people in attendance. Tech Police Chief Randal Hermes said officers attend events depending on size, past experiences and other variables, but when congressmen, dignitaries or celebrities visit campus, Tech police are not as involved.

“Usually when they come, they have a state police officer with them,” he said. “We’ll visit the area with state troopers a day or two before to look at the route and do some advanced planning.”

E-mail comments to keb029@latech.edu and jhh015@latech.edu.