TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma judge has awarded $2 million to the family of a man who was fatally shot at a Tulsa motel by an off-duty state trooper, court records show.
The settlement approved Tuesday by Tulsa County District Court Judge Rebecca Nightingale requires former trooper Sheldon Robinson to pay the amount to the estate of Michael Swatosh. The money is to be put in a trust so Swatosh’s widow, Mykelynn Vasquez, can raise her two young daughters, who are now 6 and 7 years old.
“Money is never going to replace Michael,” Sabah Khalaf, the Tulsa-based attorney for Vasquez, said Wednesday. “It’s a win in that there’s a sense of some accountability for Sheldon Robinson, but more than anything, we’d like to see charges brought against Sheldon Robinson.”
He said he’ll push for the county’s current district attorney, Steve Kunzweiler, to re-examine the case.
Vasquez said she’s glad to “have some kind of justice,” but worries about the long-term effects Swatosh’s 2013 killing will have on her girls.
“At family gatherings, they’ll disappear a little bit and kind of go in the corner and cry because they know someone’s missing,” she said. “They’ve seen a counselor every week for four years.
“They have their dad’s ashes around their neck,” she added, fighting back tears.
The state Department of Public Safety settled its part of the wrongful death lawsuit for $25,000, said Terri Watkins, a spokeswoman for Oklahoma’s attorney general.
Robinson hasn’t been criminally charged in the shooting. He was fired by the highway patrol in 2014 after investigators said he lied to them about why he was at the motel.
Robinson didn’t appear at the settlement hearing. Court records show that since last year he hasn’t attended several hearings in the matter.
He had said he shot Swatosh because he thought Swatosh and at least one other person were pointing guns at motorists. But highway patrol investigators said there was no reason Robinson should have been in that high-crime area even if he was off duty.
An attorney listed in court records as recently representing Robinson didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday.
Robinson had told investigators that he climbed a flight of stairs at the motel and confronted Swatosh, eventually shooting him six times with a personal firearm, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the ex-trooper. Investigators found Swatosh had a BB gun and had been drinking the day of the confrontation.
Former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris declined to file criminal charges against Robinson. Harris, who recently announced he was a candidate for Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Kunzweiler, the current district attorney, is in court this week prosecuting the manslaughter trial of a Tulsa police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man last year. He said in a text message Wednesday that his office would consider another review in the case involving Robinson “if new facts are developed which were not known previously” and if the statute of limitations has not expired.
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