UNITED STATES NEWS

Charges dropped against 7 Oklahoma police officers in 3 separate fatal shootings

Jul 28, 2023, 1:05 PM | Updated: 2:20 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The new prosecutor in Oklahoma’s biggest county announced Friday she’s dropping criminal charges against seven police officers in three separate fatal shootings from 2020.

District Attorney Vicki Behenna’s predecessor, David Prater, had filed the charges in all three cases before he left office, and Behenna hired a use-of-force expert to examine the evidence in each case.

“I know how highly charged the topic of law-enforcement use of force is in the current environment,” Behenna said in a statement. “It is critical to evaluate each case independently and make a decision based on facts, not emotion.”

Behenna, a Democrat from the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, defeated conservative Republican Kevin Calvey last year to win a four-year term as the top prosecutor in the state’s most populous county. A former federal prosecutor and defense attorney, Behenna is the first woman to hold the post in Oklahoma County.

She brought in Clarence Chapman, a retired Los Angeles County Sherriff, to determine if the shootings were justified according to state law He reviewed video from police body cameras, medical reports, witness interviews and reports from other responding agencies, Friday’s statement said.

The most high-profile case involved five Oklahoma City officers charged with first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of 15-year-old Stavian Rodriguez. The teen was shot outside an Oklahoma City convenience store on Nov. 23, 2020, by officers responding to reports of an attempted armed robbery.

TV news video of the shooting showed the boy drop a gun then reach toward his waist line before being shot.

After being shot with the “less-lethal” round, while Rodriguez had one hand in his pocket and his other hand near his waistline, all five officers “unnecessarily fire lethal rounds at Stavian Rodriguez, striking him numerous times and inflicting mortal wounds,” Prater’s investigator, Willard Paige, wrote in an affidavit.

An autopsy determined Rodriguez suffered 13 gunshot wounds, Paige wrote.

Initially charged in the shooting were officers Bethany Sears, Jared Barton, Corey Adams, John Skuta and Brad Pemberton. All five have been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.

In another Oklahoma City case, Sgt. Clifford Holman was charged with first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of 60-year-old Bennie Edward.

Holman had responded to a call of a man harassing customers at a business in north Oklahoma City, according to a police affidavit by homicide detective Bryn Carter. When he arrived at the scene, Holman encountered Edwards, who was holding a knife and refusing officers’ commands to drop it, the affidavit states.

The third case involved The Village officer Chance Avery, who was charged with second-degree murder in the July 2020 shooting death of Christopher Pool.

Avery was called to the home by Pool’s wife, who was retrieving personal belongings, when Pool ran inside carrying a bat and was shot by Avery after refusing to drop it, police said.

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Charges dropped against 7 Oklahoma police officers in 3 separate fatal shootings