In McAlester officer-involved shooting, many questions, but few answers

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Mark Schoggins stands next to his damaged crimson Ford Explorer. Schoggins’ son, Mark Anson Schoggins, was driving the vehicle in July when he got into a police chase and was later shot to death by law enforcement. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

McALESTER — Before Mark Schoggins opens the door to the garage that holds the vehicle his son was shot to death in, there’s a heaviness in the air. When Schoggins walks into the room, he stops and takes a deep breath.

Composed now, he circles the vehicle, inspecting the damage. He finds nothing new — he’s looked the crimson Ford Explorer over countless times since his son, Mark Anson Schoggins, was shot and killed on a sweltering day in McAlester in mid July.

The vehicle, a King Ranch edition, is riddled with bullet holes. Most of the windows have been shot out, but there are tiny glass fragments littering the interior of the vehicle. The front window, one of the only windows still remaining, has multiple bullet holes punctured through the pressurized glass.

The Explorer still runs, but for now it sits still. It’s a symbol of the unanswered questions on Schoggins’ mind.

On July 17, Schoggins’ son Mark Anson Schoggins, who goes by Anson, allegedly shoplifted a bottle of liquor from a McAlester liquor store. The store called police, who located the car Anson was driving and pursued him.

He was flying. The McAlester News Capital reported speeds topped 100 miles an hour as Anson led officers out of town and back in again. At some point Anson drove past the automobile auction his father owns and onto U.S. 69. An Oklahoma Highway Patrol headquarters is located about a mile from the auction grounds, so troopers joined in.

What happened next is unclear. At some point shots were fired. Many shots, by the appearances of the vehicle. Schoggins was killed — video shot by a resident and obtained by The Frontier showed officers pulling the 35-year-old Schoggins’ lifeless body out of the vehicle and onto the ground near south Third Street and South Avenue, where the chase ended. Anson did not have a weapon.

“There are a lot of missing pieces,” Anson’s father Mark said recently in an interview with The Frontier. “I really just can’t rest until I have the answers.”

The vehicle, a crimson Ford Explorer, actually belonged to Anson’s father. Mark said his son had come by the business earlier in the day and asked for money. Mark knew it would be spent on liquor, so he said no.

“Of course, looking back, I would have just bought it for him,” Mark said. “I had no way of knowing.”

The day Anson was shot, Mark said he went to the hospital not knowing if his son was dead or alive. Eventually they told him Anson had died, and he asked to see the body. He was told no, so he reluctantly left, only to return a short while later.

“I told them, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going in there and I’m going to see my boy,’” he said. “They had him covered up, they were telling me ‘You don’t want to see him’ or ‘We can’t show you everything’ because of the damage, but they finally did let me in there.”

He didn’t see much — not enough to see where or how many times Anson was shot.

“Someone who saw him said he was shot in the back of the head,” Mark said. “I don’t know if that’s true. Part of me hopes it is because it would mean he died suddenly, I guess.”

When Mark got the vehicle back about a week or so after the shooting, he said he was shocked by the sight of it. Seven windows had been shot out. There are bullet holes in the front, back, and sides of the vehicle. Boxes that had been placed in the back of the vehicle have bullet damage and Mark said the family found multiple bullets in the vehicle that investigators had either missed or just left behind.

Bullet holes in the windshield of Mark Schoggins’ Ford Explorer. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Mark said he found two different types of ammunition embedded in the vehicle, but there’s a smaller hole in the back of the vehicle that he believes belongs to a round from an AR-15.

“I don’t know who shot my son, I don’t know how many times they shot him, I don’t even know why they shot him, he wasn’t armed, he hadn’t committed a robbery,” Mark said.

The speeds in the chase reached triple digits, and the McAlester News Capital reported that local police asked for and received approval from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to use force. But any questions about the shooting itself will remain unanswered for the time being.

There is police video of the shooting, and, perhaps, the chase, but officials have yet to release the recording to the public. Pittsburg County District Attorney Chuck Sullivan asked in July for a local judge to bar the video from being released before Sullivan makes a determination on the shooting.

Online court records show that no hearing has been scheduled for Sullivan’s request, and the judge who heard the initial motion, Special Judge Mike Hogan, did not respond to interview requests by The Frontier.

Sullivan has not yet ruled on whether he feels the shooting was justified or not.

The last officer-involved shooting in Oklahoma that resulted in a criminal charge was the fatal September 2016 shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa. Crutcher, who was unarmed, was shot by Tulsa Police Department officer Betty Shelby.

Shelby was eventually charged with first-degree manslaughter, but was acquitted and returned to the Tulsa Police Department where she worked desk duty for a short time before quitting.

She is now a patrol deputy for the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office.

In 2015, reserve Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Robert Bates shot and killed Eric Harris as Harris fled by a botched undercover illegal gun sting.

Harris was tackled to the ground when Bates approached and shot him. Bates, then 72 years old, yelled out “I shot him, I’m sorry,” and Harris later died at a local hospital.

Bates was charged with second-degree manslaughter and was convicted in 2016. He served less than half of his four-year sentence.

Mark said he knows the identity of one of the troopers involved in the pursuit and believes the trooper’s sister works in Sullivan’s office. The trooper’s father, Mark said, works at the local courthouse.

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The identity of the other officers involved haven’t yet been unreleased. The city of McAlester has not yet responded to records requests for the identities of the officers involved in the shooting. Last year, the identities of Oklahoma officers who were involved in shootings went unreleased in about one-third of all officer-involved shootings in the state.

Mark wants Sullivan to recuse from the case, but he knows it’s unlikely (Sullivan told the local paper he had no intention to recuse himself). Mark said he’s heard that three officers are on administrative leave, and his hope is that they are eventually removed from the force, even if they aren’t criminally charged.

“I know that’s an uphill battle, but I feel that it’s right,” he said.

He said the Schoggins’ family has retained an attorney, but he’s more interested in answers than money. He’s worried that the case will be ruled justified and everyone, except the Schoggins’ family, will just move on.

“Nothing’s going to bring Anson back, I know that,” he said. “I know how these things go, they think ‘Let’s just throw the family a little money and it all goes away.’ Well I don’t need money and this family won’t go away.”

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Dylan Goforth

Editor in Chief/Staff Writer

Dylan has two kids, three dogs, and no time to himself. He's fueled by QuikTrip and Twitter. Contact: dylan@readfrontier.com or 918-931-9405.
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