Lawsuit disputes Mayes County deputy-involved shooting account

The encounter with the Mayes County deputy that left Shane Bridges dead lasted only seconds, but what happened in that moment is being disputed in court.

Courtesy of NewsOn6
Courtesy of NewsOn6

The encounter with the Mayes County deputy that left Shane Bridges dead lasted only seconds.

Around 1:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day in 2014, a deputy drove his patrol car down the driveway of Bridges’ home near the town of Chelsea.

Soon after the deputy arrived, he exited his car, pulled out his pistol and fatally shot Bridges. The whole event lasted less than 10 seconds. But what happened in that moment is being disputed in court.

Official reports state Bridges, 33, was armed and fired at the deputy when he exited his patrol car. The county’s district attorney ruled the shooting was justified.

However, lawyers representing his widow claim Bridges didn’t fire at the deputy and wasn’t even armed.

A civil lawsuit filed in March 2015 alleges Mayes County Deputy Kyle Wilson sprayed 13 bullets into the front of the Bridges’ household, narrowly missed hitting a child sleeping in the living room and killed Bridges, who was inside the home with the door closed.

Opposing accounts
Both parties agree Wilson was responding to a 911 call claiming Bridges was intoxicated, suicidal and threatening to harm a child. They also agree the deputy shot Bridges twice and killed him. But they dispute what happened before and after.

Around midnight on New Year’s Eve in 2014, Shane Bridges and his wife, Janelle, went to shoot guns in celebration of the New Year. In a deposition, Janelle said it was a tradition she had grown up with.

Soon after they went back inside their home, Janelle’s sister, Jennifer Crook called and told the couple she was coming to get her daughter, according to the lawsuit. Crook had previously handed over custody of her 2-year-old daughter to the couple.

During the phone call, Crook was complaining of never getting to see her daughter, Janelle said in a deposition.

She threatened to come over with her boyfriend, physically hurt Bridges and then take her daughter, the lawsuit states. Bridges tried to calm his sister-in-law and told her she could visit her daughter the following day, the suit states.

In a deposition, Crook’s account of the call differs. Crook said Bridges was slurring his words, threatened to kill the child and then himself.

After the call, Crook called 911 and reported what Bridges said to her, according to court documents.

The couple’s home was peaceful and quiet when the 911 call was made, according to the lawsuit. Janelle was breastfeeding a newborn in the bedroom, the rest of the children were asleep and Bridges was in the living room stoking the wood-burning fire.

Around 1:30 a.m., Wilson arrived at the Bridges’ home in response to the call. When Wilson parked his car in the driveway, Bridges was startled by the sounds of his dogs barking and tires rolling up his driveway, the suit states.

Bridges walked across his living room and opened his door to who see was in front of his house. When his frame appeared in the doorway and after Bridges closed the door, Wilson began firing, the lawsuit alleges.

Official reports give a different account of the event. The OSBI report states both Wilson and Bridges fired shots.

MSCO officials declined to comment for this story, citing pending litigation. A request for comment from the agency’s attorneys was not returned.

Wilson, who was appointed as a deputy in May 2013, has testified Bridges stepped onto his front porch and fired a single shot, although not in Wilson’s direction.

Wilson said when he shouted “Shane,” Bridges turned and started firing again. Attorneys representing the couple said the two knew each other and Bridges did tree-trimming work for Wilson.

After Bridges went back inside, Wilson reloaded his pistol and prepared for another attack. When he repositioned himself, Janelle came outside and said her husband had been hurt and needed help, according to a motion filed by the defendants.

Meanwhile, Rex Cowan, a neighbor, said in a deposition he heard gunshots around 1:30 a.m, and they sounded as if they came from the same gun.

Cowan — who’s a member of the Diamond Head Fire Department — said in a Mayes County Sheriff’s Office report that soon after he heard the shots, he received a page for a gunshot wound. When he arrived at the scene, he learned the victim was Bridges.

Cowan checked to see if Bridges had a pulse, which he did not, and also checked to see if the children were harmed. No child was injured.

Wilson and Janelle went inside to render aid, but Bridges was dead, the motion states. The couple’s attorneys said Wilson didn’t give medical aid.

Wilson was forced to return fire and fatally shot Bridges, MSCO Sheriff Mike Reed said during an interview with NewsOn6 in January 2014.

Mayes County Sheriff Mike Reed talks about the deputy-involved shooting during an interview with NewsOn6. Photo courtesy of NewsOn6
Mayes County Sheriff Mike Reed talks about the deputy-involved shooting during an interview with NewsOn6. Photo courtesy of NewsOn6

During the interview, Reed pointed to Bridges’ criminal record and called it “quite lengthy.” He had a history of charges in Mayes County, including burglary and automobile theft. Reed said he believed the suicide call was premeditated.

“You know, of course we support the deputy 100 percent in this. He did just exactly what he was supposed to do,” Reed said in the interview.

“He was put into a bad situation. He had to return fire to protect his life, and again, that goes back to his training. So I think in a split-second decision, that’s what you’re going to go back to, is your training.”

However, Janelle Bridges has testified she heard gunshots coming only from the driveway where Wilson was standing.

Wilson, who wasn’t injured, was put on temporary administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

The civil lawsuit alleges Wilson fired his gun even though he had no reasonable belief Bridges committed a crime harming someone or intended to harm someone, the lawsuit states.

Bridges was shot twice while he was inside his home, and the bullets had to go through the walls and door before they struck him, the lawsuit states. Three bullets also hit a KIA parked in front of the house, breaking part of its antenna.

Attorney Thomas Mortensen, who is representing Bridges along with Joseph Norwood, said the bullets are a key piece of evidence. The two bullets that hit Bridges didn’t exit his body, showing where he was standing when he was struck.

“If those bullets would have exited, it would have been impossible to know where he was at the time, and the officer’s version would have had a little credibility attached to it,” Mortensen said in an interview Thursday with The Frontier.

“But since the bullet didn’t exit we know exactly where he was at the time because the path of every bullet was accounted for, and if Shane Bridges was on the front porch, instead of 10 bullet holes, there would have been eight (in the house).”

Attorneys for Mayes County have said some of the bullet holes in the house came from a previous incident wherein Shane Bridges was firing a gun.

However, Norwood said a photo taken of the house in October, two months before the incident, shows the bullet holes weren’t there.

Janelle and Shane Bridges. Courtesy
Janelle and Shane Bridges. Courtesy

In a recent interview with The Frontier, Janelle Bridges said her husband’s death has affected her in “every way.” She said Bridges was a wonderful husband and father.

Civil lawsuit
The civil lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, alleges Wilson unreasonably endangered the children and Janelle Bridges. It names Wilson, Reed and Mayes County as defendants and seeks actual and punitive damages in excess of $1 million.

“Additionally, all of the plaintiffs were subjected to witnessing (Shane Bridges) lying on the floor and dying in front of their eyes.”

The lawsuit also alleges when Shane Bridges was fatally shot, it violated his civil rights, as well as Janelle Bridges’ and the children’s. The suit states the policies, rules and regulations of the Mayes County Sheriff’s Office were violated regarding use of deadly force, as well as use of nonlethal means to de-escalate a situation or and deal with an emotionally disturbed or suicidal person.

The Mayes County Sheriff’s Office also acted negligently when it failed to give Wilson proper training in using deadly force, the lawsuit states.

A motion filed by the suit’s defendants states Wilson was trained on the MCSO use of physical and deadly force policy. He also received “shoot/don’t shoot” training.

The lawsuit states Reed is liable for Wilson’s acts and developed a custom of failing to properly investigate and discipline deputies who violate people’s civil rights.

“Defendant sheriff was or should have been aware of these unlawful acts and practices prior to and at the time of the killing of decedent,” the suit states.

The case, which was scheduled for trial Dec. 19, is on hold pending appeal. The case isn’t expected to go to trial for at least 12 months.

Your financial support for our investigative journalism is now tax deductible. To become a Friend of The Frontier, click here.

Kassie McClung

Staff writer

Contact: Kassie@readfrontier.com or 918-935-1044.