OKLAHOMA CITY --
Master Sgt. Bryan Whittle, assigned to the 205 Engineering and Installation Squadron (205th EIS) at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City, was honored as the American Red Cross of Oklahoma’s military hero during the 2019 Oklahoma City Heroes Breakfast, March 5, 2019.
Whittle was highlighted based on his actions to stop an active shooter at Louie’s Grill and Bar by Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City, May 24, 2018.
“I was just doing what I thought was right,” said Whittle.
Whittle and his wife, Shannon, were driving to another lake for Memorial Day weekend when they passed the restaurant and saw a commotion. With a medical kit in their vehicle, the two stopped to see if they could help.
From a suspected drowning to three people already being shot, the situation quickly changed in Whittle’s mind as he retrieved his weapon from his car and attempted to diffuse the situation. After receiving fire, Whittle returned fire and neutralized the gunman.
Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Potter, 205th EIS senior enlisted manager, said he was not surprised to hear that Whittle had reacted so quickly to the situation.
“We do daily safety briefs on every job we are on and anticipate risks for that day,” explained Potter. “Whittle was going boating and was on his way to the lake that day. He was prepared with safety in mind and had a boating safety kit in his truck. He saw people running and thought there might be a drowning or some other boating accident, which prompted him to pull over in the first place to assist in that effort.”
Whittle called Potter after investigators had finished talking to him that night.
“He (Whittle) told me, 'I told my wife I love you,’ before taking off to face the active shooter,” recalled Potter. “Those words have more meaning in that moment than any of us can fathom. It tells me he knew in that moment that he didn’t know what the outcome might be, yet he still went and didn’t ask permission to engage. He just did it.”
Whittle’s commander, Lt. Col. Scott Townsend, also said the Air National Guard equips men and women with the skills and knowledge needed in sudden situations like Whittle’s.
“I’m proud of Whittle for taking action and putting his life in harm’s way to possibly save another life,” added Lt. Col. Scott Townsend, 205th EIS commander. “As Guardsmen, we are trained to take action where other people do not take action, to sometimes disregard our own safety for the sake of others. I tell my troops here in the Oklahoma Air National Guard that we’re special – a cut above the rest – and this just goes to reinforce that.”
Whittle was one of eight people featured for actions in six categories – military, first responder, healthcare professional, community impact, disaster services and youth – during the first ever Red Cross Heroes Breakfast in Oklahoma City.
“The breakfast is something we’ve been doing now for many years in locations across the U.S. as not only a fundraiser, but a way to recognize heroes who walk amongst us,” explained Derrick Brown, American Red Cross Oklahoma Regional Chief Development Officer. “We really feel it’s important to show people all across the country that people are doing heroic things that are saving lives every single day, just as the Red Cross does.”
Brown said that selecting the heroes from the 30 to 40 nominees was an “arduous” process for the committee, which is composed of Red Cross board members and staff.
“There were some tear jerking and poignant moments where this was not an easy choice to make,” Brown said.
Other recipients were: Doris Baker, healthcare professional hero; the Norman Regional Health System and Norman Regional Health Foundation, community impact hero; police Officer Derek Speckman, Officer Michael Schmit and Sgt. Mike Lanoy, first responder heroes; Yostin Mendoza, youth hero; and Chief Brad Smith, disaster services hero.