COLUMBIA — Missouri National Guard soldiers and airmen were still on "alert" Saturday afternoon to "avoid wearing a military uniform in public" because of a "direct threat" in retaliation to a gang-related shooting around Fort Sill, Okla., earlier in the week.
The cautionary warning was issued Friday. According to an internal memo leaked to the Columbia Missourian, "soldiers ... shot Crips gang members; in retaliation Crips has asked its members to shoot any soldiers on sight."
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Crips is a collection of gangs throughout the U.S. with an estimated membership between 30,000 and 35,000 operating out of 221 cities in 41 states. Missouri is one of those states.
Lt. Col. Levon E. Cumpton, who issued the memo, said the message "came out through Army channels"; Fort Sill is an Army base in Lawton, Okla. He called the action a "precautionary measure."
According to Cumpton's memo, National Guard troops were instructed not to "wear a military uniform out for evening dining, shopping, and other personal matters." Full-time members were cautioned to "consider commuting to/from work in civilian clothes — specifically, if they need to make personal stops between home and work."
Spokesmen for the Missouri National Guard and Fort Sill declined to elaborate on the incident, saying the investigation is in the hands of the Lawton, Okla., Police Department. Yet as of Saturday afternoon, "the alert has not been rescinded," said Maj. Tammy Spicer, the public affairs officer for the Missouri National Guard. The decision to call off the alert will come from the Joint Operations Center in Jefferson City.
"As far as we know, and even the Lawton Police Department know," the gang’s threat is "just an unsubstantiated rumor," said Fort Sill Public Affairs Officer Keith Pannell during a phone call late Friday night.
KSWO-TV 7 News in Lawton reported two Air Force bases in Oklahoma, Tinker and Altus, issued similar orders to enlisted soldiers. The Altus Air Force Base Facebook page commented Friday night on receiving "information on a criminal threat to military members in the Lawton-Fort Sill area."
The incident that sparked the direct threat seems to be tied to a "brutal” home invasion in Lawton earlier in the week, with the four main suspects in the invasion being Fort Sill soldiers. They are believed to be responsible for shooting four people and injuring two others early Tuesday morning who, according to rumors circulating in the city, were gang members with ties to the Crips.
The Missourian was unable to reach the chief of police who is handling the case.