A Bartlesville woman who was the victim of a domestic violence incident is suing the City of Bartlesville after being shot in the head by a police officer who was shooting at her alleged assailant.
The lawsuit, filed by Trina Brown, 44, in federal court in Tulsa, alleges the city and BPD officer Corey Boyd acted negligently as a result of poor training, and asks for at least $75,000 in damages. The alleged assailant in the case, Brown’s boyfriend William Cole, 36, was shot and killed by Boyd on Oct. 26, 2016.
Though the fatal shooting of Cole was covered by local media, it had not been publicly revealed that Brown was also shot during the incident until the lawsuit was filed this week.
The shooting happened at Brown’s Bartlesville residence, according to police and court documents. On that day, Brown had picked Cole up and taken him to her house, though she suspected by his behavior he had consumed methamphetamine, according to investigators.
After Brown commented on Cole’s alleged meth use, Cole began to physically assault her throughout that day, though Brown was eventually able to separate herself from him and ask a person for help, investigators said. However, by the time police arrived, Cole was gone.
Around 5 p.m., after police left Brown’s house, a neighbor called police after seeing Cole walking toward Brown’s house and attempting to force his way into the home, investigators said.
Two Bartlesville police officers arrived at the scene, with one officer going to the back of the house to make sure Cole did not escape and the other, Boyd, going to the front door, the suit states.
When Brown answered the front door and was on her porch talking to Boyd, Cole burst through the front door and tackled Brown from behind, causing her to fall forward onto her front lawn, the suit states.
As Brown lay on the ground, Cole stood over her punching her in the head and shoulders, the suit states. One of the officers attempted to use a Taser on Cole, but the device’s prongs got stuck in Cole’s jacket and had no effect, according to the lawsuit.
Boyd then attempted to get Cole off Brown, but as he approached, Cole punched him in the face and knocked him to the ground, investigators said. According to the Washington County District Attorney’s Office, which would later clear Boyd of wrongdoing in the shooting, Cole then began to press his attack on Boyd.
At that point, Boyd “loosed a fusillade of bullets in the general direction of Mr. Cole, even though Ms. Brown was lying on the ground, directly within Officer Boyd’s field of fire,” the lawsuit states.
William Cole had pending felony charge of assault and battery. He was shot and killed in Bartlesville by police. pic.twitter.com/3ydpaQkw2O
— Cori Duke (@CoriDuke_KJRH) October 27, 2016
One of those bullets, according to the suit, hit Brown in the head behind her left ear, traveled down her neck and across her back and lodged near her lower spine. Despite low rates of survival for victims of headshots, Brown lived through the shooting.
The lawsuit accuses officers of trying to hide what happened, and states that one of the other officers told responding paramedics that Brown had been stabbed behind her ear rather than shot.
The fact that Brown was shot was not included in any initial statements to the public or media because officers did not know that Brown had suffered a gunshot wound at the time, said Capt. Jay Hastings, public information officer for the Bartlesville Police Department.
“Initially we were not certain how she received her injury,” Hastings said. “She had said he had a knife and she had a wound on the left side of her ear. Initially we thought she was wounded with the knife. She was making statements of something like ‘he shot me he shot me.’ After she went to the doctor, they did figure out it was a round from the officer who was firing.”
Hastings said it is still unclear whether Brown was hit by a direct shot or from a bullet that had ricocheted.
Brown’s attorney, Thomas Landrum of Tulsa, declined Thursday to offer comment on the lawsuit to The Frontier.