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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The City Council for Oklahoma City is being asked to approve an extra $100,000 for outside legal counsel to defend five OKC police officers and the Police Chief being sued by the mother of Stavian Rodriguez.

The 15-year-old Rodriguez was shot and killed by OKCPD officers after he had surrendered at the end of a convenience store robbery on the south side November 23, 2020.

Lawsuits against individuals

Cameo Holland, mother of Rodriguez, is suing Police Chief Wade Gourley and the five officers in federal court for depriving Rodriguez of his “Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force …”

Oklahoma City Municipal Counselor Kenneth Jordan – the City’s top in-house lawyer – has placed three items on the Tuesday City Council meeting agenda asking to spend up to the $100,000 on outside legal counsel for two of the officers.

Three more named in the federal suit have asked for a firm that is already on retainer with the City, so authorization is requested with no extra money in that request. However, the firm can bill for more money later if their expenses go beyond the retainer amount.

Holland and her attorney Rand Eddy had filed a similar lawsuit in state court before filing in federal court. Here is our report from December 2020:

Mother of Stavian Rodriguez launching lawsuit against Oklahoma City

City Manager Craig Freeman hired Wade Gourley to be the 50th OKCPD Chief of Police in July 2019. Within his first year, Gourley faced historic protests in Oklahoma City over his department’s practices, especially when it comes to police use of deadly force.

File-Stamped-Complaint-1

Officers named

One of the officers named in the lawsuits had around five years of service at the time of the shooting and the other four officers had less.

They are:

  • Officer Bethany Sears
  • Officer Jared Barton
  • Officer Corey Adams
  • Officer John Skuta
  • Officer Brad Pemberton

The City’s negotiated contract with its police officers makes provision for the City to pay for outside legal counsel if individual officers are sued for their actions while carrying out their duties as officers.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge No. 123 is the union local that represents the officers in negotiations.

Felony charges

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has filed felony charges on the five officers. Each is charged with manslaughter in the first degree.

The arrest affidavit Free Press obtained in March says that the five “willfully, unlawfully, and unnecessarily killed Stavian Rodriguez, by shooting him with a firearm, while resisting an attempt by the deceased to commit a crime or after such attempt had failed …,” causing his death.

Here is our report from March with details and five body-worn camera videos released by OKCPD at the time:

Five OKCPD officers get felony charges in Stavian Rodriguez shooting

The FOP is paying for their legal defense in those cases according to news reports.

Tensions

This is the latest development in what has been a tense year between the OKCPD and community members over what some consider to be an eagerness to shoot and kill by OKCPD officers.

Only days after the shooting and five months after Black Lives Matter protests in the metro over police killings, Free Press reported on the department’s heated relations with its community.

Response to Stavian Rodriguez death strains police-community relations

Black Lives Matter – OKC executive director T. Sheri Dickerson said at the time that the “killing of civilians by agents of the state shows a complete disregard for the value of all human lives.”

Last Updated July 3, 2021, 11:52 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor