Armed veteran patrols outside North Thurston Public Schools in response to Uvalde shooting

One local veteran is taking safety into his own hands by patrolling around schools in North Thurston Public Schools in direct response to the mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas earlier this year. 

Anthony Triplett has become a familiar face around campuses, voluntarily patrolling outside schools while carrying a glock, medical supplies and wearing a bulletproof vest. 

"This is kind of where we are right now as a society and I want to do my part to help out," said Triplett.

Triplett is a disabled veteran and father who has two girls attending public schools in the district.

He founded Veteran Overwatch and says he started patrolling schools nearly two weeks after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Triplett says he tries to volunteer four hours each day, making rounds outside different schools with his dog, Jade. His bulletproof vest has a large Veteran Overwatch patch on the front. 

"I want to be identified, so they know and because the resource officers know who I am," said Triplett. "There's no confusion."

He says the community response has been overwhelmingly positive and that everyone has been "extremely grateful and nice."

North Thurston Public Schools says Triplett is not employed with them.

While they're aware of him, they would only say "he is operating on a public street and as a private citizen."

In response to school shootings, the district sent FOX 13 these strategies that are in place:

  • Building safety measures: Secure entrances, high-definition security cameras, one-button building lockout systems, and more provide tools for both prevention and response to incidents in our schools.
  • Critical incident response: A district team is trained to coordinate communication, reunification, support services, and other logistics in an emergency.
  • Safety drills: At least one lockdown, shelter-in-place, or evacuation drill is conducted monthly in every school, helping staff and students practice their response to a crisis at school.
  • School Resource Officers: City of Lacey and Thurston County Officers are assigned to each of our schools and work to ensure a safe environment for student learning. We have a total of four trained SRO’s in our district that are assigned to our schools. NTPS has benefited from the SRO program for 20 + years and we have found ways to prioritize support for the program through budget cuts and staffing shortages.

Triplett says he is in contact with the school resource officers in the district.

"I'll share a message with them in the morning ‘Hey, I’m going to be around this school today at this time, if you need me, I'll be here,' and vice versa," said Triplett

Triplett says if an incident were to happen at a school, it could take around 20 minutes for another officer to arrive and Triplett believes Veteran Overwatch can bridge the response time.

While Triplett says he has community support, Dylan O'Connor, the government affairs director with Alliance for Gun Responsibility doesn't believe this is a good idea.

"There's no data anywhere to suggest that the presence of firearms in or around school can mitigate gun violence. It only increases it," said O'Connor.

Regardless of intent, O'Connor believes more voices should be heard.

"I'd be curious to know what some students feel about what's happening around their school rather than general support in the community," said O'Connor.

Triplett says Veteran Overwatch is made up of at least six community members and four other veterans, including Derek Sanders, a Thurston County Sheriff candidate.

If Sanders wins, Triplett says a pilot program is in the works to put a trained Veteran Overwatch member to stand guard in schools.

"The plan for us is to be part of the sheriff's reserves program with Thurston County Sheriff's Office," said Triplett.

For now, Triplett is planning a public meeting next month, where anyone can meet Veteran Overwatch members and ask them questions about the organization. 

The exact date is to be determined but will be announced on their website and social media pages.

We reached out to the Thurston County Sheriff's Office for comment but have not heard back as of Thursday evening.