The shooting death of 15-year-old Stavian Rodriguez by five Oklahoma City Police officers November 23 has spawned a murder charge for his accomplice in their attempted robbery that night.
Wyatt Cheatham, then 16 and now 17, joined Rodriguez in the robbery attempt, his mother says, but was not at the scene later when police shot and killed Rodriguez.
Oklahoma County DA David Prater has charged Cheatham with murder because of Rodriguez’s death. A second charge of robbery with a firearm was filed at the same time in December.
Under Oklahoma statute 21 O.S. 701.7, a prosecutor may charge an accomplice with murder when the crime they were committing resulted in the death of another.
Mother speaks out
Cheatham’s mother, Amanda Totsch, talked to Free Press Sunday afternoon before a protest in front of the Oklahoma County Jail and was struggling to talk through her sobs.
Her son had his 17th birthday in jail and remains there after the judge in the case refused to allow bond to be posted for his release.
“When I found out, my heart just stopped, like, it almost stopped beating,” she said. “We knew he was going to be in here for robbery but we didn’t expect this.”
Totsch said her son first learned about the charge by word of mouth from one of the jail staff on his floor.
The charge was completely unexpected. “At the very most [we expected] armed robbery, and we can accept that because he did that,” said Totsch.
We asked what she wants the public to know about her son.
“I want them to know that he’s not a murderer,” she said. “You know, he didn’t kill anybody. He didn’t go in there with the intent to kill anybody. That was never the intention.”
“He’s not a killer. I just want people to know that he’s a good boy. He deserves to have his life and just as Stavian [Rodriguez] deserved to have his life still,” Totsch said.
The shooting has been controversial and has created tensions in the community resulting in several protests since it happened.
Charging Cheatham with murder when Rodriguez’s death was by police shooting has increased the outrage.
A KOCO TV video, shot by an off-duty news cameraman who happened by, showed that Rodriguez had surrendered and laid down his handgun, raised his hands, then lowered them to his waistband when officers shot him.
Friends say it looked like he was reflexively reaching to pull up his pants, which they saw him do often.
But OKCPD spokesperson MSgt Gary Knight at the scene that evening said Rodriguez “did not follow the officers’ commands” and made “furtive moves” resulting in their opening fire.
Several protests have occurred since the shooting with one specifically against the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 123.
Only days after the shooting, Black Lives Matter – OKC and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 123 engaged in dueling press releases about the shooting.
In an usual move, City Manager Craig Freeman issued a joint statement with OKCPD Chief Wade Gourley.
And, the FOP specifically targeted Oklahoma City Council Member JoBeth Hamon in a their news release saying that she was vilifying law enforcement. Hamon has been critical of the department in the past.
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