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A nine-year veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department has been charged with second degree murder and an alternative charge of first-degree manslaughter.

He was arrested and booked into the Oklahoma County jail Tuesday.

Sgt. Keith Patrick Sweeney was charged by David Prater, district attorney for Oklahoma County, for actions he took while responding to a call Nov. 15 around 2:40 in the morning.

Sweeny shot Dustin Robert Pigeon five times while he and two other OKCPD officers were responding to a suicide threat Pigeon had made to 911 dispatchers.

Prater explains

In a news conference Tuesday, Prater showed body cam footage from Officers Eric Howell and Troy Nitzky, the first to arrive. (See videos below)

David Prater, murder
David Prater at a news conference explains the charges against OKCPD officer Keith Patrick Sweeney. 12-5-2017

Pigeon was holding a lighter in one hand and a can of lighter fluid in the other when the first two officers arrived. He was threatening to set himself on fire.

Howell and Nitzky tried to get Pigeon to put the items down and surrender.

Then, Sweeney arrived and began shouting commands to Pigeon.

Nitzky tried shooting Pigeon in the left hip with a bean bag shotgun load, one of several nonlethal methods officers have to get a suspect to surrender.

But then, seconds later, Sweeney shot Pigeon five times with his 9mm service pistol.

Pigeon crumpled to the ground and died at the scene.

In both videos Sweeney can be heard to say, “Is that a knife in his hand?”

Later, Sweeney is heard to say to Nitzky, “I didn’t know you had a bean bag, dude.”

Investigation

Prater made the decision to charge the officer after an investigation by OKCPD homicide detectives.

“The investigation into this incident concluded Dustin Pigeon was not armed and not a threat to the officers when he was shot by Sgt. Sweeney,” reads the lead investigator’s probable cause affidavit.

Sweeney has been detained and remains in custody until arraignment.

Prater said that he brought dual charges against Sweeney in the shooting to give the jury in an upcoming trial options according to how they see the evidence.

Assurances

Most important to Prater was to “assure the public that we are going to do the right thing every time, and that the police department will do the right thing every time.”

Prater was careful to praise the two other officers, Howell and Nitzky, who were the first to arrive and tried to get Pigeon to put the lighter and fluid down.

Prater said, “…even though we did charge an officer in this incident, we have two officers, officer Howell and officer Nitzsky, who did everything textbook in trying to bring this to a peaceful end by using less than lethal force….”

Union statement

Jon George, president of the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing OKCPD officers, released a statement shortly after Prater’s news conference.

“Police officers are routinely placed in dangerous situations where they must quickly make life-or-death decisions,” wrote George. “We caution citizens against jumping to conclusions until the facts are fully presented.”

“We know these are trying times for Sgt. Sweeney and his family, and we’re here for them. We also offer our sympathy to Mr. Pigeon’s family and loved ones.”


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