Lambeau Field Bomb Threat Incident

Whoops.  What happened here?

A minivan is shown on top of other vehicles after an incident in the Lambeau Field parking lot Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Police say a fired food service worker rammed a former co-worker’s car at Lambeau Field, bringing numerous law enforcement agencies to the Green Bay Packers’ stadium. (Adam Wesley/The Green Bay Press-Gazette via AP)

Seemingly defying the laws of gravity no less.

Statement from Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith:
On Dec. 22 at 1:06 p.m., officers of the Green Bay Police Department responded to Lambeau Field for what was initially reported as an Active Shooter incident.  As officers were responding, several 911 calls were made reporting a vehicle had crashed into the side of the building inside the southeast loading dock and a male exited the vehicle with a gun.  Officers arrived within five minutes of the above time, and had the suspect in custody at 1:12 p.m., within six minutes of the initial call.

During the investigation, officers learned the suspect was a former employee with the food vending service at Lambeau Field.  The suspect was terminated in early December 2017 due to having an altercation with a fellow employee.  The suspect was at police headquarters early in the day to report what he believed was an illegal termination to officers.

At 1:06 p.m., the suspect located the victim in the parking lot of Lambeau Field.  The victim is believed to be the same person the suspect had the altercation with earlier this month.  Using his vehicle, the suspect intentionally rammed the victim’s vehicle causing the victim’s vehicle to collide with five other vehicles in the area.  The victim fled on foot and the suspect chased him in his vehicle.

The suspect ultimately drove his vehicle down the southeast loading dock of Lambeau Field, entered the building via a loading ramp, and crashed into a storage room inside Lambeau Field.  The suspect fled the vehicle on foot and was arrested without incident by Green Bay Police officers.

The suspect is a 20-year-old male/Asian resident of Green Bay.  The exact charges are unknown at this time as investigators are actively working to interview the victim, witnesses and suspect.

After the suspect was in custody, the Brown County Bomb Squad was called in to clear the suspect’s vehicle.  Nothing suspicious was found and no weapons were located.  The loading dock of Lambeau Field is a restricted area and there were no fans or players in the area at the time.  There were fans inside the stadium and shoveling out the bowl but they were not in any danger.  Officers initially requested schools to be put on lock down; however, since the suspect was taken into custody so quickly, the schools never locked down.

The Green Bay Police Department is the lead investigating agency and is being assisted by the Green Bay Metro Fire Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Brown County Sheriff’s Department, and Ashwaubenon Public Safety.  The investigation will be ongoing and there is no threat to the community.

Tomorrow’s game will be as safe as any other game at Lambeau Field.  We may relocate some officers’ assignments, but the safety protocols will be generally the same.

Statement from Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy:
The Green Bay Packers express our gratitude to our local law enforcement officials and our security staff for their quick response to the incident today at Lambeau Field, which was resolved safely.

At no time during the isolated incident was the general public in danger and all the public areas of the stadium remained open for normal business.  Preparations for tomorrow night’s Packers-Vikings game continue and all gameday operations will continue as planned.

The safety of our employees and guests is a top priority. We will continue to work with all appropriate officials to review today’s event.

Now for some observations:

Overall, it would appear this volatile situation was handled with efficient professionalism.  My only major concern would be the open gate which enabled the man access to a stadium loading ramp.  However, Lambeau Field tends to operate in a more community friendly environment than most NFL stadiums.  For example, roughly 500 local volunteers were inside the stadium shoveling out snow when the incident transpired.  I’m quite sure that Lambeau’s game day protocol and security are significantly more stringent.

Something else to note:  Police were initially called to the scene in response to receiving several 911 calls of an “active shooter” in the ramp area of the stadium.  In the aftermath, no weapons were found.  Other than the vehicle, of course.  Also, the Packers official statement initially identified the man as a 20 year old.  He was later correctly identified as 40 year old Chay Vang.  Sometimes, in the urgency of the moment, real-world facts can get distorted.

The Packers issued an identical statement on their twitter and facebook.  A brief sentence with a discreet link.

Green Bay Police Department & Green Bay Packers statements on Friday incident at Lambeau Field:

This is where my concerns grow a bit murkier.  Considering the gravity of the situation (a disgruntled employee using a vehicle as a potential deadly weapon, both outside and inside an NFL stadium), I do believe it was necessary to get ahead of the story and address the situation on social media.  Note: There really is no “best practices guide” for how to divulge active shooter or bomb threat information on social media.  And if you think the NFL feels uncomfortable with voluntarily exposing information about concussions, domestic violence, kneeling for the anthem, and so on… well, I can assure you of one thing.  Bomb threats are easily the most dreaded and challenging topic.  Just ask yourself the most obvious question — What if the flow of information results in a panic?

Now would this situation have been handled any differently had it transpired during the game?  My speculative hunch is a resounding yes.  However, would 81,441 Packers fans all exercise the same degree of measured discretion with regard to their own social media activity?  I seriously doubt it.

With such a bizarre occurrence and so many witnesses, the only viable solution was to be as straightforward as possible.  The Packers social media posts and statements were coherent, and for the most part, accurate.  However, a red flag concern is the potential for online reaction.  Once the material is placed on the internet, it gives anyone the ability to chime in.  What if someone were to comment… “I know that man personally.  He told me that his friends, armed with AR-15’s, are coming to “finish the job.”  Could real-time information like that be tagged, shared or retweeted?  How might a scenario like that play itself out?

More importantly, what if there was a deliberate, targeted attempt to saturate open-sourced social media applications?  Is there really any feasible contingency plan for the wireless equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded stadium?  Uh, let me be blunt.  NO, there isn’t.

Something else to keep in mind.  When the mayhem transpired, the news of it broke near simultaneously, from multiple sources.  Check the stories among the prominent football social media sites — The Big Lead, ESPN, 247 Sports, etc.  And everything from WHBL Sheboygan to The New York Times.  The stories are relatively indistinguishable, hastily copied and pasted.  Generally speaking, on the internet, acts of plagiarism are trending less egregious.  If a false narrative was concocted, this rush to dispense information could have unintended negative consequences.

In the media, both mainstream and alternative, we’re increasingly hearing the term “weaponized information.”  It might be wise to start game planning and strategizing for unsettling, unpredictable variables in cyber-world.  Lambeau Field is a wirelessly hyper-connective environment.  And what object is virtually everyone carrying?  Bratwurst?  Large draft beer?  Well the beer might be ice cold, but you’re getting warmer.

The correct answer — a cell phone.  Ding-ding-ding!

The NFL is an admittedly powerful institution.  But when it comes to random, decentralized exposure on social media, they are just as vulnerable as any other organization in the realm of government and private industry.  The world is an unusual place.  Strange things happen.  And the next stadium emergency might not be so easily contained.  In the cellular world, steel gates and metal fences and concrete barriers mean zilch.  Unless of course, it’s the fans getting physically smashed into them.

Just a friendly public service announcement.  One that nobody’s allowed to talk about.  Except me, I guess.