The link between domestic violence and police shootings

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Larry Durbin had multiple domestic violence incidents in his past before allegedly pulling a gun on a police officer, resulting in the non-fatal shooting of a passenger in Durbin’s vehicle.
It is April 8, 2011. Larry Dean Durbin Jr. is 33 years old and has five children with his partner, whom he has been with for 11 years.

During all that time they’ve had an explosive relationship, and the woman will later tell police that Durbin has hit and choked her multiple times in the past. She has never called police on him, she tells those officers

But something was different this time. Durbin, according to an arrest report, stormed into the couple’s home, grabbed the woman by the neck, choked her and threw her on the bed.

When she tried to get up, he slammed her into the door frame, and called her a “trick-ass whore,” according to the report.

She tells officers that Durbin again wrangled her around the neck as she was moving to a different room, this time throwing her down on the couch.

“He choked me with his right hand,” she told officers of that final bit of violence. “He held it for about 10 seconds.”

It was so bad, she reported, that after Durbin left the house she coughed and threw up.

Durbin told police he didn’t remember hitting the woman. “I might have but if I did I do not remember,” he told them. “I might have come close to hitting (her) in the past.”

***

It is August 17, 2011. Durbin has bonded out of jail and is living with another woman when he is again arrested for domestic violence. Police report that he punched the woman, described as his roommate in charging documents, in the head and kicked her.

He is charged with another felony. The following year he will be convicted of both crimes and will spend about seven months in prison before being released and placed on probation.

***

It is May 27, 2018. Ponca City police officers are attempting to pull Durbin over for reckless driving. Durbin doesn’t pull over and a brief slow-speed pursuit takes place.

Durbin’s pickup eventually crashes into a fence. He exits the vehicle and begins shooting at officers. They return fire and strike a passenger in Durbin’s vehicle, who survives. Durbin eventually pleads no contest to shooting with intent to kill charges and is sent to prison.

These may all seem like unrelated incidents. But Durbin is one of at least 26 Oklahomans involved in officer-involved shootings last year to have domestic violence in their criminal history, and researchers are increasingly studying the links between domestic violence and police shootings.

***

Casey Gwinn, President of Alliance For Hope International, a California-based nonprofit that assists victims of abuse, said he began to study the connection between domestic abuse and people who shoot police officers a few years ago.

“We looked at this little sample, it was just 10 incidents where an officer was shot, and eight out 10 had a domestic violence incident in their past,” Gwinn told The Frontier during a recent interview. “That started my obsession with tracking this, like who are these guys?”

Though Gwinn originally looked only at people who fired at police officers, he said he found that the connection between domestic violence and police shooting often extends to incidents where citizens are shot by police as well.

“We’re not talking about cases where someone might be unarmed and shot by an officer,” Gwinn said. “We’re talking about cases where there’s an interaction between an armed offender and a police officer. I call it a ‘loaded god complex.’”

In Durbin’s case, he was both armed with a weapon and had previously strangled a woman. Researchers believe that is the combination most likely to lead to a shooting between a suspect and an officer.

Gwinn said researchers believe that a man who strangles a woman is attempting to prove to her his superiority.

“He could kill her, but he doesn’t,” Gwinn said. “He’s strangling her and letting her live to show her that he’s god, and her life is literally in his hands … it’s no surprise that in a life and death situation, where an armed suspect like that is face-to-face with an officer, that he would pull out his weapon.”

A still image from the body camera video of the police shooting of Andrew Kana, right, by Muskogee Police Sgt. Ron Yates, left. Yates, who was cleared of the shooting, shot Kana after Kana allegedly tried to pull a gun out during his arrest. Officers were at the scene that day because Kana, who had a long history of domestic violence, was wanted for allegedly strangling a woman. Courtesy

Andrew Kana, 36, was shot and killed by Muskogee Police Sgt. Ron Yates last November inside a restaurant that sits just off a highway that runs through the northeast Oklahoma town.

Like Durbin, Kana was armed with a gun when he had his interaction with police. And like Durbin, Kana had a history of domestic violence.

In 2001, Kana was a student at Ponca City High School when he was charged with domestic violence for allegedly punching his ex-girlfriend as they walked between classes. The girl told police she had broken up with Kana the prior month, but that Kana followed her down the hallway asking her “do you want me to choke you?”

Oklahoma officer-involved shootings in 2018

“He reached his hands up towards my neck,” the girl told police. “I pushed his hands away.” He blocked my way to go to my class.”

When the girl went to call her mother, Kana reportedly followed her, then hit her with the back of his hand. Kana was charged with a misdemeanor and given a one-year suspended sentence. Kana was later charged with assault and battery for an alleged domestic incident with his adopted father, charged with child abuse and also had a protective order filed against him by a Ponca City woman.

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In 2003, a Sequoyah County woman alleged Jonathan Duane Atchley slapped, hit, kicked and choked her during an incident at their home. Atchley was not charged with a crime, but a protective order was filed against him (it was later dismissed when the plaintiff failed to show for a hearing).

In 2012 Atchley was charged with a misdemeanor for slapping and choking that same woman in front of their daughter during a fight at the couple’s home in Roland. Atchley told police he did not remember slapping his wife, but did “admit to grabbing (her) by the throat and pinning her against the wall.”

Atchley was found guilty and sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence.

Last year Atchley was shot and killed by Sallisaw Police officer Blaine Griffey after Atchley began to assault Griffey during a traffic stop.

***

In May, Tulsa police officers pulled up to an SUV outside of an eastside extended stay motel. The driver of the SUV, wearing a LeBron James Miami Heat jersey, told the officers he was merely dropping people off at the motel and attempted to walk away.

Body camera video shows that officer Chris Beyerl then begins to speak to a passenger of the vehicle, later identified as 26-year-old Albert Shae Odom.

Odom had faced at least five separate felony cases by that point, mostly for drugs and burglaries. Beyerl can be heard in the body camera video yelling at Odom, then firing multiple times at the vehicle, shattering the SUV’s tinted windows.

Odom was killed in the shooting, one of three fatal shootings by Tulsa police last year. Beyerl and his partner were eventually cleared by prosecutors.

Odom was one of the largest subset of people shot by police last year in Oklahoma — White men with guns and criminal records.

Of the at least 56 people shot last year by police, 55 of them were men, records show. Of those 55 men, 34 were white, at least 26 had prior criminal history and 23 had a gun at the time of the encounter.

Nine black men were shot by police last year (the only woman shot by officers, 72-year-old Bartlesville native Geraldine Townsend, was also black.) Six of the men who were shot by police were Native American, five were Hispanic and one South Korean man was shot.

By race, men shot by Oklahoma police last year were disproportionately black, the data shows.

There were nine black men shot by police last year, which represented 16 percent of those shot by police. Fewer than eight percent of Oklahomans are black, according to the latest U.S. Census data.

Whites, on the other hand, are under-represented as police shooting victims. While a little more than 74 percent of Oklahoma is white, only 62 percent of police shooting victims were white.

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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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