The shooting last month of an Oklahoma City man who reportedly threatened patrons of a convenience store there, then pointed a gun at responding police officers was the 23rd fatal officer-involved shooting of the year, according to data reviewed by The Frontier.
Chris Stone, 32, was shot by OKCPD officer Matthew Patten just after midnight on Aug. 13, the agency said.
Stone was the 23rd person to be killed during an encounter with Oklahoma law enforcement this year, the fifth consecutive year the state has seen at least 20 people killed by officers.
It’s unclear what sparked the increase in fatal shootings in recent years. The demographics of the deceased have stayed relatively consistent, according to public records and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation data reviewed by The Frontier — about 3/4ths of the people fatally shot by law enforcement are white, about 20 percent are black and the remainder are Native American or Hispanic.
However, the reason for the uptick could be a simple one: There is not a single publicly available repository for information on all officer-involved shootings in the state, and shootings would often come and go with little public outcry and little public information.
It wasn’t until recent years that the public eye began to turn toward shootings by law enforcement, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the rise in Oklahoma officer-involved shooting deaths began in 2014, the same year as the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., and a year after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin.
Despite the fact that fatal shootings in 2018 have stayed on the recent upward trend overall, the last two months have been mostly quiet. Records reviewed by The Frontier show two officer-involved shootings statewide since Aug. 1, only one of which (the Stone shooting in Oklahoma City) was fatal.
So far this year the month with the most officer-involved shootings was March, when eight people were shot (four of those were fatal.) January had the most fatal shootings with five (seven people were shot overall by law enforcement that month.)
Even so, the state is still on pace for nearly 30 fatal officer-involved shootings, a figure that would be second-highest in recent Oklahoma history, next to 2015 when there were at least 34 fatal shootings.
In all but one case this year — the fatal shooting of 72-year-old Geraldine Townsend in Bartlesville — those shot by officers have been male.
They’re also often armed with a weapon, according to police, either a gun, a knife or in some cases a vehicle officers described being threatened by.
According to records reviewed by The Frontier, only one person shot by police this year was unarmed. In January 37-year-old Jonathan Duane Atchley was killed by a Sallisaw Police Officer after Atchley allegedly began physically assaulting the officer in a hospital parking lot.
In recent years national focus has twice turned on Oklahoma for fatal officer-involved shootings, both times following the shootings of unarmed black men by white officers. In 2015 Eric Harris was killed by a reserve Tulsa County Sheriff’s Deputy during an illegal gun-selling sting, and the following year Terence Crutcher was killed by a Tulsa Police Department officer during a traffic stop.
In both cases the officers involved were charged with crimes. Robert Bates was sentenced to four years in prison in 2016 for killing Harris, but served less than two years before being released. Betty Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter for the Crutcher killing, but was acquitted last year.
She returned to work at TPD but was assigned to desk duty. She resigned and is now a deputy with the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office.
None of the officers involved in shootings this year in Oklahoma have been charged, though a few cases are pending a ruling.