Tensions have been high in the City of Oklahoma City after the tenth shooting involving Oklahoma City Police Department (OCPD) officers Monday.
Fifteen-year-old Stavian Rodriguez was shot and killed by Oklahoma City Police officers at the end of an apparent robbery attempt of a convenience store on the south side.
Some organizations in the City have called for the resignations or terminations of OCPD Chief Wade Gourley and five of the six officers involved in the shooting.
OCPD issued a statement that evening saying that investigations were under way. All of the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, a common procedure as internal investigations take place.
According to the department’s information, five officers fired lethal gunshots and a sixth shot him with a “less lethal round” in response to what OCPD referred to as “furtive moves” by Rodriguez when confronted.
A video of the incident captured by KOCO TV shows Rodriguez laying down his weapon, raising his hands, then lowering them before being shot by the officers.
According to OCPD, the death of Rodriguez represents “officer-Involved Shooting #10 and Homicide #69 of 2020.”
Multiple press releases
By Friday, organizations and the City of Oklahoma City had issued substantial statements to the press about the matter.
The first was Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City (BLM-OKC) who issued their statement Thursday. It was critical not only of the shooting of Rodriguez but others in recent months.
The City of Oklahoma City and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 123 that represents OCPD officers issued press releases Friday in response.
The releases by the City and the FOP stand out compared to other “officer-involved shooting” situations where press releases are generally handled only by the department’s public information officer.
Black Lives Matter statements
The press release and on-camera statements made mid-week by BLM-OKC were critical of the OCPD. They cited other situations where residents of the city have died from police actions in addition to the latest of Rodriguez.
“Law enforcement officers and agencies are not to be considered jury, judge, and executioner where they are there to ‘protect and serve,'” said Sheri Dickerson, executive director of BlM-OKC on a Facebook video.
The press release from BLM-OKC was critical of the latest shooting.
“The consistent use of lethal force by police officers must stop,” Dickerson was quoted in the press release. “The killing of civilians by agents of the state shows a complete disregard for the value of all human lives, though it consistently and disproportionately targets black and indigenous people and other people of color.”
At an on-camera news conference the same day, Dickerson and BLM-OKC once again called for the resignation of OCPD Chief Wade Gourley.
The organization previously called for his resignation after the May 30 and 31 protests where the group believed excessive force and use of tear gas showed disregard for citizens’ right to assemble and protest.
Thursday, the groups at the on-camera news conference also called for five officers who fired lethal shots to have their employment terminated and for Mayor David Holt and City Council members to urge the City Manager to ask for Gourley’s resignation.
Unusual City statement
An unusual joint statement by the City of Oklahoma City Manager Craig Freeman and Gourley revealed that at the highest levels in the City government, the criticisms were being taken seriously.
Gourley reports to Freeman as do all other department heads in City of Oklahoma City government who are hired and fired by the City Manager.
A note on the release pointed to the City Charter rule that the Mayor and City Council members are not allowed to be “involved in any way in personnel matters” and that if they do, they are subject to criminal charges and removal from office.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of 15-year-old Stavian Rodriguez,” the statement began. “We are heartbroken for Stavian’s family and friends. Every officer-involved shooting is a tragedy for the person’s family and friends and our community.”
The statement asked residents for patience as the criminal and administrative investigations inside OCPD get under way.
Typically, those investigations take months to complete. Unless any final disciplinary action results in loss of pay, suspension, demotion of position, or termination, the public will not be informed of the outcome. If criminal charges are filed that would be a public record.
The statement touted the establishment of the Law Enforcement Task Force made up of 44 community leaders working on the department’s de-escalation policy and the Community Policing Working Group of nine community leaders working on expanding alternative responses and youth outreach.
“You have our commitment that we will communicate open and honestly concerning this matter,” the joint statement read. “We remain committed to improving our de-escalation training in an effort to avoid future officer-involved shootings.”
The press release gave a separate statement from Freeman supporting Gourley as Chief:
“As City Manager, I have complete confidence in Chief Gourley and his ability to lead the organization through these changes to better serve our community.”
Police union defends officers
As have other police unions across the nation, the FOP in the City has taken an aggressive approach since the George Floyd protests in May.
In June, FOP-OKC leveled criticism at two City Council members who had suggested that police culture and funding should change. They also criticized organizations that were a part of the protests associating them with criminal acts such as rioting and looting.
The most that has happened during protests in Oklahoma City was the breaking of windows May 30, 31 and multiple public demonstrations that did not lead to any other violence than bottles being thrown at the police and police firing less lethal rounds and tear gas at protesters.
The FOP statement praised “our brave officers” for facing dangers in order to “protect and serve this community.”
“Police training and experience tells us furtive movements and a lack of following commands present a deadly threat,” the statement read.
The recent death of a Tulsa police officer shot and killed by a suspect was cited as an example.
The statement addressed what they claim was the refusal of Rodriguez to follow the officers’ commands Monday that led to the shooting.
“Any loss of life is tragic and officers do not take firing their weapons lightly. But it is imperative and legal for officers to protect themselves from violent criminals. It’s a reasonable and lawful expectation for someone to obey police commands.”
Union attacks City Councilor
But the statement didn’t stop there, moving on to criticize “local activists and City Councilor JoBeth Hamon who continue to vilify law enforcement, disregard facts and jump to conclusions.”
Hamon, wife of freelance reporter Marty Peercy who writes for us, has drawn the ire of the union for openly criticizing OCPD more than most elected officials.
The union’s press release continued, “They would rather stand with those who murder, rob and threaten our society than those tasked with keeping this community safe. We will not remain silent and encourage others to condemn their inflammatory rhetoric.”
Hamon posted this criticism mid-week on Twitter which seems to be what touched off the latest response from the FOP-OKC:
After the press release came out, Hamon posted this beginning of a thread in response:
In July the FOP-OKC Twitter account criticized Hamon during a City Council meeting suggesting that she resign if she can’t take criticism.
Earlier in the summer, FOP-OKC officials criticized both Hamon and Ward 7 Councilor Nikki Nice for their public comments about reducing funding for the police and spending money on community support for mental illness and substance abuse.
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