A man terrified children and staff members at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club after breaking through a door and trying to start a fire at the youth center.
Oklahoma City police were called at 1:40 p.m. Monday and told a man was trying to enter the building at 2808 SE 44. More than 100 children between the ages of 6 to 11 were there at the time, according to a police report.
Megan Ellis, a unit director for the program, said a staff teacher was outside with children when a man scaled a fence around the center.
“The staff teacher outside saw him and got between him and a group of children outside,” Ellis said. “They were playing recreation games ... He sent the children inside and told the man to leave the property immediately.”
Ellis joined the teacher outside and told the man to leave. The man insisted people across the street were after him, she said.
“You could tell he was not all there,” she said. “He was saying, he's being followed, and he was extremely paranoid.”
Instead of leaving, the man charged Ellis and the teacher, who both ran inside and held a glass door shut to keep him out.
Nine staff members herded the children into classrooms and locked the doors as part of the club's emergency procedures, Ellis said.
The man managed to crack shatterproof glass with his fist, Ellis said. Then he picked up a heavy planter and threw it through the cracked glass. Ellis and the teacher ran into a gym and locked the doors from the inside.
At that time, the man was locked into the main room, with all doors leading further into the facility locked. He threw himself against locked metal gym doors, Ellis said.
“He was running full force at the gym door,” Ellis said. It was covered with blood by the time he gave up.
The man next tried to set a towel and grocery sack ablaze.
Ellis said the staff called 911 three times during the ordeal.
Once police arrived, “they were impeccable,” she said. “We had wished they had responded sooner.”
Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow said police received a first call at 1:40 p.m. and arrived at 1:55 p.m.
Officers subdued the man has he tried to start a fire, Ellis said.
“This is the roughest neighborhood I've ever worked in, but the families that come here, they love their kids, and the want somewhere safe for them to be,” Ellis said. “I'm so proud of my staff. We kept them safe. That guy was never going to get to those children.”
Emergency procedures worked, but the Salvation Army is looking for ways to make the building safer, such as a buzz-in system for front door and installing more cameras around the property, she said.
Police jailed Keithan Deon Rundles, 42, on complaints of arson and destruction of property, according to an incident report.