Hugo Police Department detectives Billy Jenkins and Chad Allen were both placed on administrative leave after the shooting, which occurred at the Washington Community Center in Hugo around 1:30 p.m. April 26, said Assistant Hugo Police Chief John Mitchell.
The robbery suspect, 21-year-old William Devaughn Smith, and three of the four children in the truck, who were ages 1, 4 and 5, were shot by the detectives after police said Smith attempted to hit the detectives with the pickup truck. Smith, who is being held at the Choctaw County Jail on a robbery complaint after being treated at a Paris, Texas, hospital, is accused of robbing the Hugo Pizza Hut on April 11.
The three children have since been treated and released from a Tulsa-area hospital, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The fourth child who was in the vehicle did not sustain injuries, the OSBI stated in a news release on Thursday.
Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons is representing the family. He told The Frontier on Thursday it was “very concerning” to him that the detectives involved in the shooting were in plain clothes and were driving an unmarked vehicle.
Solomon-Simmons said he didn’t know if Smith, the driver, knew the people following him were officers.
“If you don’t know if someone is law enforcement or not, it changes things,” he said. “I don’t know what happened, but that’s concerning to me.”
Solomon-Simmons said the children who were shot had all been released from the hospital, though “there is a lot of physical and emotional pain.”
“They are terrified to go anywhere or hear anything,” he said. “The two-year-old keeps asking about ‘Am I going to get shot again.’ It’s a bad deal. The child who had a bullet in the brain, there’s some question now that she may have a permanent injury. She might be looking at a lifetime injury.”
The OSBI was called in to investigate the shooting, which sparked protests in the southeastern Oklahoma town, and its findings will be forwarded to District Attorney Mark Matloff to determine whether the shooting was justified.
According to a prepared statement issued to the Hugo News this week by the town’s mayor Richard Higginbotham, Hugo police detectives had developed Smith as a person of interest in the April 11 robbery of the Pizza Hut and had obtained a description of a vehicle being driven by Smith. On the day of the shooting, Hugo Police Chief Jon Paul Bozeman spotted the pickup and notified the two detectives, Jenkins and Allen, who responded immediately and followed Smith in an unmarked pickup truck, the statement read.
After following Smith’s vehicle to the Washington Community Center parking lot, Jenkins and Allen, who were in plain clothes, got out of their vehicle and began to walk toward Smith’s parked pickup “hoping to make a consensual contact with the driver,” when the children’ mother, Olivia Hill, who is listed as Smith’s sister, exited Smith’s pickup, according to Higginbotham’s statement.
Smith then allegedly put the vehicle into reverse and “accelerated rapidly backwards, striking one of the detectives,” Higginbotham’s statement read. “Both detectives then fired their guns in an effort to protect themselves.
“Prior to the shooting, neither of the detectives saw any children in the suspect vehicle,” Higginbotham said. “Neither of them had any information from the robbery investigation there might be any children in the suspect vehicle. After the suspect struck the front of the undercover police vehicle, it continued going backwards until it came to rest after running into some steel poles supporting an overhead awning between the buildings. Only after the detectives approached the car and looked inside did they discover the four children in the back seat.”
Mitchell said Jenkins was the detective who was struck by the vehicle, but that he did not sustain serious injury.
Higginbotham declined to provide much more information about the shooting to The Frontier on Thursday, saying he had been given legal advice not to speak to the media.
Radio logs show that the shots fired was called in to dispatch by police chief Bozeman, who relayed that the suspect vehicle had attempted to run over one of the officers. Pictures from the scene show a silver pickup truck the two detectives were driving that was struck by Smith’s truck is similar to one that was often used in the past by Bozeman.
Mitchell said the silver truck did belong to Bozeman at one point, but he had recently passed it on to the department’s detectives, and during the shooting Bozeman had been circling the block nearby, but was not involved.
Bozeman was out of the office until Monday, Mitchell said, and was recovering from a shoulder injury sustained while attempting to get out of his vehicle just after the shooting occurred.
Investigation records show Jenkins has been involved in at least one other shooting in the past few years — the fatal December 2014 shooting of William Lee Honea, 33, in Hugo. That shooting was ruled justified by the district attorney, but resulted in a civil lawsuit against the city of Hugo, Choctaw County and others that was settled late last year for an undisclosed amount of money.
Smith has not yet been formally charged, and Matloff told The Frontier on Thursday he had sent the case back to police for further investigation.
***Officer-involved shootings in the state are down this year compared to 2018, records show. There have been 16 shootings so far this year, eight of which have been fatal, compared to 25 shootings last year (15 fatal) through April of last year.
Ten of the people shot this year by Oklahoma law enforcement have been white, and four of the people shot this year have been black. One person shot — 27-year-old Shawn Taylor Waitie — was Native American. Watie is one of the eight fatal shootings, records show.
Identities of the people shot by police have been released in all cases but one — an officer-involved shooting in Rogers County in which the person who was shot was a deputy.
Deputies and Oologah police officers were attempting to arrest 30-year-old Kelby Bradshaw on April 3 when Bradshaw reportedly got into a “physical encounter” with deputies. Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton told The Frontier that Bradshaw charged at deputies who had their guns drawn.
“They had very few options at that point,” Walton said.
Walton told The Frontier the deputy who fired his gun did so accidentally, and that the officer who was shot suffered only a minor wound. Walton did not release the names of the deputy who fired his gun nor the deputy who was shot.
While the majority of those shot by police have had their identities released by the different agencies, many officers involved in the shootings remain unidentified.
The names of the officers involved in the shootings remain unreleased in seven cases, records show.
James McDonald, a military veteran who reportedly had PTSD, was shot and killed after he allegedly shot his ex-girlfriend and killed the woman’s boyfriend. Both Comanche County and the Cache Police Department were on the scene, but no information about who shot McDonald has been released by either agency.
Jeremy Dale Edmonds, 42, was being arrested on a domestic assault and battery by strangulation charge when he was shot and killed by two U.S. marshals who said he attacked them with a knife. The marshals identities have not been released.
A Del City Police Department Officer shot and killed 25-year-old Gabriel Lane Carter in February after Carter, who was being detained for shoplifting at a Del City Walmart, opened fire, shooting a security guard and another officer. Del City has not identified the officer in that shooting.
The Chickasha Police Department officers who shot and killed Kevin Samuel Capers, 27, in March, have not been identified. Capers was holding a knife and threatening his girlfriend at the time of the shooting, police said.
Lawton Police Department officers who shot Michael Lynn Burton 57, in April have not been identified by the department. Burton was reportedly swinging a firearm “aggressively” at officers when he was shot. He survived and was later charged with feloniously pointing a firearm.
Phillip Christopher Hardman, 29, a west Tulsa man who survived his shooting last month with an OHP trooper, was shot after reportedly firing at troopers who were pursuing him. Deputies with the Pawnee County Sheriff’s office were also in the pursuit. No one from either agency has been identified.
Of the fatal shootings so far this year, five of the people shot were white, two were black and one was Native American.
Your financial support for our investigative journalism is now tax deductible. Click here to become a Friend of The Frontier.