Ft. Gibson Police Arrest 5 For Breaking Into National Cemetery
FORT GIBSON, Oklahoma - Police arrested five people they say broke into the National Cemetery in Fort Gibson. Police said they were trying to steal equipment from the grounds.
Several residents were upset, not necessarily about the crime itself, but about the disrespect to our nation's veterans.
"I'm very surprised and very shocked to know that someone would come into a national cemetery and do something like that," community member Robert Dye said.
The national cemetery is where rows upon rows of American soldiers are buried in their final resting place.
That's where Fort Gibson police said Jackie Pippen, James Cook, Alydia Shepherd, Shelby Gatwood and Russell Cook tried to steal equipment used for upkeep and burial on the grounds.
It's a crime Police Chief Clint Vernon said he and his officers take offense to.
“You know being the veterans the National Cemetery, that is a soft place in our hearts and we just take it very personal," he said.
So does the director of the cemetery, Bill Rhoades.
"Well this is the most expensive burial in the world, and all of our veterans have earned this burial, and to steal from the National Cemetery degrades the remembrance of the sacrifices that our veterans made for this great nation,” said Rhoades.
Police said the thieves cut an area of the fence to get into the cemetery; their target was a container full of supplies and equipment.
“They were stashing a lot of the tools and then planned to come back with the truck to get it," Vernon said.
He said they tried to stash the items underneath trees right next door to the grounds until someone driving by saw what was going on and made a call to police, something Rhoades appreciated.
“This isn't my cemetery, this is our cemetery, and thanks to a vigilant community that kept their eyes open and reported something that looked suspicious to them," he said.
Dye and many other said they were upset over the situation.
"You never know what's going to happen anymore. Times changing," Dye said.
Police said the five could face federal charges.
As for the cemetery, the director said they'll take more security precautions in the future.