Two Tulsa teenagers who were handcuffed on a north Tulsa street earlier this summer in an incident that sparked anger across the country and drew criticism from Mayor G.T. Bynum were quietly charged with juvenile crimes related to the incident, authorities have told The Frontier.
The boys, whose identities have not been released, were charged in Osage County rather than Tulsa. Osage County District Attorney Mike Fisher said the portion of Tulsa where the incident took place fell in his jurisdiction.
Tulsa Police have not responded to a records request filed by The Frontier in June that asked for records related to the number and location of jaywalking citations filed by officers.
Since the boys were charged as juveniles, little has been released about the case against them. In Oklahoma, juvenile crimes are kept secret except under very specific circumstances and the cases do not appear on court records websites like other felony or misdemeanor charges filed against adults.
Fisher said he could only confirm that the boys had been charged, but could not release the boys’ names or what they had been charged with. The boys, cousins, were aged 13 and 15 at the time of the incident.
The mother of one of the boys, Tawanna Adkins, launched a fundraiser in June to cover the cost of the criminal defense of her son, 13, who she identified in the fundraiser as “Isaiah.” The fundraiser had raised nearly $3,000 as of Wednesday.
“The two officers unnecessarily wrestled Isaiah to the ground and proceeded to harm and violate him. While in custody of the police, Isaiah was beaten and punched in the stomach, which may not be seen on video,” Tawanna Adkins wrote in the fundraiser. “Many things were not captured on video. This encounter has left Isaiah with physical bruising. Both boys are left with psychological scarring from this incident.
“Isaiah has been charged with jaywalking, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer, which are felony offenses. These funds will go towards Isaiah’s criminal defense.”
Damarrio Solomon-Simmons, a Tulsa-based civil rights attorney who represents the family, said only that the criminal charges were “ridiculous,” and that the boys had only recently had their initial appearance on the charges due to COVID-19 related delays.
Solomon-Simmons had called earlier this summer for the criminal charges against the boys to be dismissed.
The incident came just days after Tulsans, like residents of many other major cities across the country, protested the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black Minnesota man who was killed by police in late May. And it came just days before President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Tulsa, an event that came with its own unique blend of racial animus and led to standoffs between protestors and supporters.
The boys were handcuffed on June 4 by police officers who accused them of jaywalking, though the street they were on in the 1300 block of North Osage Drive had no sidewalks.
The video, released by Tulsa Police in June after social media posts about the incident began to spread, showed one of the boys who was handcuffed by officers being handled roughly by officers who pinned him to the ground before being lifted by his arms and taken to the patrol car. One officer can be heard in the video saying that the teen had headbutted him, and the boy can be heard threatening “to beat” an officer if his handcuffs were removed.
Both boys asked the officers why they were being detained, and eventually the body camera footage shows an older man arriving on the scene and telling the officers that he was “watching you assault that little boy.”
The officers, police later said, were part of TPD’s Gang Unit, a squad of officers who often patrol north Tulsa in attempts to remove illegal guns. The unit’s methods can be more aggressive than typical patrol officers, as has been witnessed by a Frontier reporter during ride-alongs with Gang Unit officers.
Tulsa Police Department Sgt. Marcus Harper, president of Tulsa’s Black Officers Coalition, was quoted in the Tulsa World in the days after the release of the video questioning why some neighborhoods are policed differently than others.
The department, in response to criticism over what happened in the video, released a summary of “significant events within an estimated half mile of this interaction since the beginning of 2020.”
It included multiple armed robberies and shootings, as well as stolen vehicles and the arrest of a “Certified Gang Member.”
After the video was released, Bynum, who was recently re-elected as Tulsa Mayor, said he viewed the video “more as a parent than as a mayor.”
“I know the officers in that unit focus on the removal of illegal guns from the streets, but the goal of that work should be that families feel safe in their neighborhood. This instance accomplished the opposite.”
Police said after the video was released that an internal investigation into the incident had begun. Officer Jeanne Pierce, a spokeswoman for TPD, told The Frontier last week the investigation was ongoing.
Earlier this week Wendell Franklin, TPD’s police chief, held a press conference where he announced that assaults against police officers had risen from 62 incidents in the first half of 2019 to 95 in the first half of 2020.
“Most of these violent assaults garner very little attention from the public, but they’re something we deal with on a daily basis,” Franklin said.