Sarah Stultz: A whirlwind of a day bringing you the news

Published 8:11 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz


My day on Sunday started with a text message from Albert Lean Tom Jones. He had sent it right before 2:30 a.m., but I didn’t notice it until a little later when I got up closer to 4 a.m. to use the restroom.

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He alerted me there was an active shooter at Shady Oaks and that a squad car had been shot.

Seeing that type of message in the middle of the night is the last thing anyone would want to see at that time of day — or any time, for that matter.

My stomach sank, and for a few minutes I sat dumbfounded, not knowing how to proceed in my role at the newspaper.

Was the shooting still happening? Was it inside or outside? Should I risk getting any closer to alert people to what was happening?

The last thing I wanted to do was get in the way if the situation was still happening, and I for sure didn’t want to pester the police department.

I messaged our publisher, who happened to hear the text message come through, to let her know what was happening, and we tried to get the scanners working on our phones to find out more of what was taking place.

A few minutes later, I noticed conversation starting on Facebook. People who lived nearby or who somehow knew people who do started posting information about the incident. Though I knew I could only take that information with a grain of salt, I knew that whatever was going on was serious. The discussion quickly grew with posts coming in.

Closer to 6 a.m., I received a call from Public Safety Director J.D. Carlson, asking for our help getting the word out about what was taking place and asking people to stay away from the area.

I was glad to have some credible information to share with the community and hoped it could help alleviate some of the questions people were having during such an unsettling time.

There were many unknowns and rumors of even more people who had been shot and injured, and it was my goal to squash any rumors if at all possible.

Around 7 or 7:30 a.m., Tribune Publisher Crystal and I met at the Tribune, trying to figure out a way we could photograph what was taking place with the streets at that point blocked in all directions for the safety of everyone in the neighborhood and for people passing through.

We eventually made our way over to United Methodist Church to speak with the Rev. John Mitchem, who is also the chaplain for the Albert Lea Police and Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office, before waiting a few hours to hear that the standoff had ended.

Little by little, more information was released throughout the day, and I was relieved to find out that though three people were injured, no one was killed.

It was a whirlwind day for us, and I’m grateful for the opportunity we have as a newspaper to update the community on such critical matters.

As this situation continues to unfold in the coming weeks, I hope people continue to support those who may have been affected by this — there are many.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column publishes every Wednesday.