In February, Lisa Schaapveld allegedly holed up in her pet grooming business inside a tin-metal building in Sulphur, about an hour-and-a-half southeast of Oklahoma City.
Schaapveld, 45, was “depressed” and had just broken up with her girlfriend, authorities said. At some point during the five-hour standoff, police said she pointed a gun at herself and officers, and fired a number of shots from her perch inside the Super Mutt Dog Grooming Salon. The exchange was filmed by a local television station.
Schaapveld survived, but was taken to the hospital that day in critical condition. Sulphur Police Department Chief David Shores told News 12, an Ardmore-based station, that allegedly troubled woman had shot two officers — Jason Conyer of Sulphur PD and Tracey Laxton from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Despite what Shores told the media that day, Schaapveld apparently did not shoot the two officers.
Schaapveld’s filing sheet (possession of a firearm after former conviction, four counts of feloniously pointing a firearm and four counts of assault tied to firing shots at various officers) identifies a number of the law enforcers at the standoff who she allegedly fired at that day, but Conyer and Laxton are both curiously absent.
Laxton, according to OHP spokesman Paul Timmons, was struck in the back by “shrapnel or debris.” Conyer was shot in the leg, not by Schaapveld, but by a fellow officer, Shores told The Frontier.
“It was a friendly-fire situation,” Shores said. “He was OK. I think he missed a week, or ten days, and was back at work.”
Still, it was no doubt a dangerous situation. Eight law enforcement officers across the state have been shot during encounters with suspects this year, counting Laxton and Conyer, a review by The Frontier found. All eight officers survived.
Data from this year contradicts some of the stereotypes surrounding shootings of law enforcement officers: Only one of the shootings occurred in a heavily populated city, four of the shooting suspects were white, and many of the incidents appear to have stemmed from mental health episodes rather than strictly criminal conduct.
‘A feeling of tension’
Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police President Clay Ballenger said “it seems like” resistance to police officers is on the rise.
“I think that resistance to police presence or to authority seems to be up,” he said. “That includes everything from passive resistance to assault to shootings.
“We feel anecdotally like resistance to officers is up in Tulsa, there may be a little more tension than in years past.”
Of the eight officers who were shot this year, Tulsa Police Department Cpl. Gene Watkins is the only victim who was a member of a large, metro police force. The others belonged either to the OHP, or to smaller, rural departments.
Watkins was shot while chasing 35-year-old Jeremie Kelly while serving a warrant in north Tulsa in August. Kelly, police said, first sped away in a vehicle, before exiting and firing at pursuing officers, striking Watkins in the leg.
Kelly later killed himself following a standoff with police.
“Assaults on officers happen every day, every day officers are seriously hurt and you never hear about it,” Ballenger said. “It seems like people think it’s just part of the job. You might hear someone say ‘well if you don’t like it, go do something else.’ But no one becomes a police officer to get assaulted or get shot at. We all have families and wives and kids and parents.”
Three shooters killed, two charged
Of the six suspects accused of shooting police officers this year (there are eight shooting victims because two officers were injured in the Sulphur shooting and two shot in a Choctaw County shooting in April,) three were not shot in return by officers.
One of those three — Kelly — shot himself.
Only two suspects were killed by police, including Clifford Butler Jr., who shot Pond Creek Police Chief Tim Barwick in September, and Joseph Potts, who shot Hugo Police Officer Steve Babcock and Choctaw County Deputy Jeff Eppley in April.
Barwick was initially placed into a medical coma and was hospitalized in critical condition, eventually having a leg amputated. He is not yet back to work, though Pond Creek Business Manager Art Curl said the police chief was aiming for a return soon.
“He’s still in rehab, I go down and see him about once or twice a week,” Curl said. “We’re praying for him every day.”
Curl said Barwick started out in the small town (pop. 856) nearly 20 years ago as a night watchman before eventually becoming police chief.
“The shooting was not a good thing for our city, but we’re all pulling for him,” Curl said.
Perhaps the strangest case was the Jan. 15 shooting of Sentinel Police Chief Louis Ross.
Ross and other officers burst through the blue-framed front door of a rural home belonging to 29-year-old Dallas Horton.
Horton, described as a survivalist and gun-enthusiast, was apparently unaware that Ross was a police officer. Horton fired four shots at the small town’s police chief, striking him once in the arm and three times in a bulletproof vest Ross had borrowed from Washita County before the raid.
Horton was not arrested or charged, and it was later determined that officers who entered Horton’s home had done so mistakenly, believing that Horton had made a telephone bomb threat. The caller, who said he had placed a bomb in the town’s Head Start Center, used Horton’s name, the OSBI later said in a release.
Officers apparently entered the home without a search warrant, Oklahoma City station KFOR reported. A Sentinel resident named Jimmy Rhoades explained to the station why the shooting happened.
“This is country, this ain’t Oklahoma City,” Rhoades told KFOR. “You’re taught from a young age that if somebody comes into your house to shoot.”
Horton was the only suspect in a police shooting to not be charged or killed. Schaapveld was charged earlier this month, and 22-year-old Alex Garcia, who shot Oologah Police Officer Charles Neil in the head following a May 28 pursuit, was charged in both Nowata County, as well as by the Kansas Attorney General.
Garcia fled into Kansas following the shooting, allegedly shooting at a Montgomery County deputy there.
Authorities said both Schaapveld and Butler appeared to be having mental issues at the time of their alleged shootings — Schaapveld had barricaded herself inside her business and Butler, according to the OSBI, believed people in bushes were trying to harm him.
Michael Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma, said law enforcement agencies across the country are beginning to turn their attention toward the mental health needs of the people in their communities.
“It’s not only getting them the help, it’s who gets them the help and how do we address their situation,” Brose said.
Brose has taken trips to both San Antonio and Colorado Springs this year, visiting police departments who have taken the lead in this area, he said.
“San Antonio is amazing, what they do,” he said. “They have a six-man unit, they’re all mental health professionals who happen to be police officers, and they respond to every call that’s mental health related. Or, if they can’t get there, they consult with responding officers on the phone.”
Brose said Colorado Springs has a similar setup, with a team of mental health/police officers who work off a list of people they refer to as “super users.”
“Many times, they’ve had phone calls about this person from family members or friends, so what they do is they respond to the call so that the person (the call is about) sees a familiar face, and just as important, the responding officer knows this person’s background already.”
Brose said Tulsa officials have been supportive in his quest to overhaul interactions with the mentally ill. The Tulsa Police Department has sent representatives to San Antonio, who, in return, sent representatives to Tulsa. Overtime, Brose is hopeful that type of collaboration will pay off.
“These are system changes and those take a lot of time, but there’s been a lot of support,” he said. “This is an onion, man.”