Armed Burglary Suspect Barricaded In Cleveland House Prompts Evacuations

Wednesday, October 23rd 2013, 6:14 pm

A high-powered weapon, stolen from a home, shook up a Green Country town and set off an evacuation and a tense situation with police that lasted about three hours Wednesday afternoon.

About nine blocks in Cleveland were shut down as a result.

In a town like Cleveland, word got around quickly that a man was holed up in a house with a gun. It was an unsettling scenario for a town that knows very little violent crime.

"We've never had a homicide in the history of Cleveland," City Manager Elzie Smith said.

A normal day in the town of just over 3,200 is quiet, but this wasn't a normal day in the small town.

"This don't happen in Cleveland," said Mary Green, who was evacuated from the town's community center, where she works. "It was scary. There was police cars down the street and I said, ‘This is the scariest thing I've ever been in.'"

A caravan of state troopers, along with a dozen or more officers with the agency's tactical team lined the city's side streets.

Police said a burglary earlier in the day is what spurred law enforcement to blanket the town. Investigators said Craig Clark, of Tulsa, stole an AR-15 and ammunition for the rifle, from a house outside of Cleveland, then headed to an acquaintance's home inside city limits.

"The actual person that lives in that residence let him in to stay for a little while and got some knowledge of the burglary," Cleveland Police Chief Clint Stout said.

Stout said the woman who lived in the house called the sheriff's office when she left for work around 1 p.m., to let them know Clark was inside the house with a high-powered, stolen weapon.

After the call, police surrounded the home.

Stout said for about an hour, he tried to convince the 31-year-old suspect to come out of the home, using a megaphone speaker, but said Clark wouldn't leave or communicate with the officers. At that point, police evacuated the neighborhood, community center and library, then shut down three square blocks of the town.

"Because of the rifle--it's long-range capable, it could go through a couple houses--and with as many rounds as we knew he could possibly have on him, it could have put a lot of people on this side of town in danger," said Stout.

Pam Patterson, who lives just a house away from the home where Clark was barricaded, said police told her to leave when she walked outside to see what was going on.

"[I was] just kind of scared," Patterson said. "You see it on TV all the time, you wouldn't think it would happen on your block and everything."

The school wasn't put on lockdown, but the district's bus route was impacted.

"We did coordinate with the superintendent and the kids that ride the bus down into this area. They were kept after school today and their parents were notified so that they weren't getting off a bus and straying into the area," Smith said.

The Oklahoma High Patrol's tactical team was called in to help negotiate with Clark. Stout said after three hours inside the house, Clark surrendered on his own, without incident.

"He actually peeked out the front door, my officers, the sheriff's deputies and troopers from the highway patrol stormed him and took him into custody," Stout said.

The chief said officers found the high-powered rifle in the front doorway of the home where Clark was arrested.

Clark was booked into the Pawnee County jail for first-degree burglary and larceny. News On 6 was told more charges are possible.