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Police respond to 'masked gunmen' calls to 9-1-1 from Dell HQ due to promotional stunt gone awry

More than two dozen Round Rock police officers blanketed the Dell campus Feb. 14 after receiving multiple 9-1-1 calls from Dell staff about masked gunmen inside two office buildings.

The incident began at 10:45 a.m. when 9-1-1 operators received the first of several calls from Dell employee, variously reporting sightings of masked and  armed men – and subsequent “panic” alarms – inside secured or limited-access executive areas.

Round Rock police officers deployed resources according to the department’s comprehensive extreme risk protocols and contingencies, which includes multiple tiers of coordination with neighboring law agencies and other support assets.

By 10:56 a.m., teams of Round Rock officers had penetrated the reported hazard areas and determined that two members of a small sales team had enacted an in-house product-promotion scheme, with little or no notice to co-workers, internal security or Dell executives.

Essentially, a member of the marketing group (who wore dark clothing with a face-hiding, skull-pattern mask) held aloft small metallic items as he rushed through densely staffed areas while yelling “go to the lobby,” believed by many of the 400-plus witnesses to be directives under armed threat (as was reported to police).

Teams of heavily armed officers swept through the buildings to locate the threats and usher victims to safety and encountered a man later identified as Daniel Rawson, 36, of Yuma, Arizona. Rawson, who told police only that he was “management,” refused to comply with officers’ directions or provide officers with the location or identity of his cohorts until other colleagues intervened.

Police were then able to identify the “masked gunman” as Bryan A. Chester, 48, of Austin. Chester, who was apologetic and cooperative, explained the actions were part of an internal product-promotion that was kept secret from nearly all employees, but did not involve any weapons or threats of any kind. Police confirmed Chester’s account, and were able to determine the incident was simply a poorly timed series of misperceptions and miscommunications compounded by Rawson’s unwillingness to cooperate with police and refusal to comply with police instructions.

Rawson was arrested and charged with Interfering with Public Duties, a class B misdemeanor; Chester was charged with Deadly Conduct, a class A misdemeanor. Both were booked into the Williamson County jail.

No injuries were reported, and the incident remains under review.

Posted: Tuesday, February 15, 2011

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