About one in every three officer-involved shootings in Oklahoma last year ended with no information being released about the officers responsible.
It was dark, and the only sound was the snow crunching under the feet of Bartlesville police officers coming to arrest Mike Livingston.
The officers suspected drugs were being sold out of the house because someone had reported seeing a “hand to hand” marijuana transaction there in the days before. As they stood on the porch they noticed surveillance cameras.
The officers were carrying a heavy battering ram and after announcing their presence three times — “Police department, search warrant!” — to no avail, it took just a swing or two before the old home’s door gave way.
“Get on the ground! Get on the ground, do it now!”
The officers said Livingston complied immediately with their demand. But his mother, 72-year-old Geraldine Townsend, did not.
On the video, recorded by one of the officers on a cell phone he had strapped to his chest, Livingston can be heard pleading “That’s my mother, man, that’s my mother!” as Townsend enters the hallway.
One officer announces that he had been shot, and another begins to yell at the woman, who relatives later said suffered from dementia.
“Put down that f—— gun down! Put down that f—— gun down!” the officer yells. Livingston tries to tell them that his mother is only armed with a BB gun, but it’s too late. Townsend had shot one officer in the leg and another in the face. The second officer returned fire, and she ultimately died in a nearby hospital.
The Bartlesville Police Department at first declined to release the names of the officers who had been on the raid, saying that Livingston had threatened to kill the officers and their families as he was being booked into jail following his mother’s shooting.
A year later, those officers’ names have still not been released. When they were eventually cleared in the shooting by Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan, they were identified only as “Officer #1” and “Officer #2.”
There were at least 56 officer-involved shootings in Oklahoma last year according to a review by The Frontier, and officers remain unidentified in 17 of those cases.
The number would actually be higher if not for court records which eventually disclosed the names of officers in six other cases.
Little is known about how often law enforcement agencies disclose the names of their officers following a shooting, but in 2016 the Washington Post reported that about 1 in 5 agencies nationwide that year had declined requests for officer identities. Officers in Oklahoma last year went unidentified in about one-third of all police shootings.
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The vast majority of the unidentified officers last year came from smaller agencies, many of which do not have public information officers and rely on the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate their agency shootings.
Oklahoma City police were involved in 12 shootings in 2018, and officers were identified in 11 of those cases. Daniel Johnson was killed in May by a U.S. Marshals Service task force which included one OKCPD officer, though it’s unclear if it was the OKCPD officer who fired the shot. Johnson, who had a long criminal history, reportedly fired a rifle multiple times at task force members before being shot.
Tulsa police were involved in four shootings last year, and identified the officers involved in three of those cases. Only in the fatal shooting of Shaunday Mullins, 37, has the officer’s identity not been released.
Sgt. Shane Tuell, a spokesman for TPD, told The Frontier that he had not received word if the agency had been cleared to release that officer’s name yet.
TPD began a new policy last July of waiting about a week before releasing the names of its officers who were involved in a shooting, and that policy may again be in for an alteration. Tuell said the department may begin waiting for clearance from the Tulsa County District Attorney’s before releasing officer names.
“We want to try and wait a week or two and give the DA that opportunity,” Tuell said. “I cannot say that the DA will make that quick of a turnaround. It wouldn’t be fair to immediately expect the DAs office to make a quick snap call on every case.”
Tuell said that TPD officers have largely favored the new waiting period before their names are released to the media and to the public.
“We know by the nature of what we do that if we’re so unfortunate as to be involved in a situation where we have to take the lives of another person that our names are going to be put out there,” he said. “What officers really appreciate is that they’re allowed to have that time to notify their families.”
Tuell said officers who shoot a suspect are often targeted through social media or phone calls to their homes and subject to threats.
“So they like to be able to tell their family and make preparations. To get them out of the house or out of town for a while,” he said.
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Occasionally in cases where no officer ID has been released, the name later surfaces in a court filing.
In Sallisaw last January, an officer shot and killed Jonathan Duane Atchley, 37, after Atchley, who was unarmed, fought with the officer outside a local hospital.
Atchley, who had a criminal history, appeared to have taken control of the fight, putting the officer at risk, Sallisaw police said. They identified the officer as “B. Griffey” in a news release.
Months later the officer was identified as Blaine Griffey, a two-year veteran of the police department.
In March, a Grady County Sheriff’s deputy shot Demon Jay-Burrus Reed as Reed was arriving home one night in his vehicle. The sheriff’s office reported that Reed was attempting to run over the deputy, whom they did not name. Nine months later, attorneys for Reed filed a civil rights lawsuit naming the deputy as Phillip McCarthey and saying Reed was driving away from the deputy when he was shot.
Reed, who survived the shooting, has not yet been charged with a crime according to state court records.
In a similar case, a Bixby officer shot and killed 16-year-old Logan Simpson last July. The officer, whom the department repeatedly declined to identify, mistakenly believed the teenager was driving a stolen car.
The officer cornered Simpson’s vehicle on a dead-end street, and when the teen tried to turn around and drive away, the officer fired multiple shots.
That officer went unnamed until Simpson’s lawyers identified him as Jon Little.
Last February a Logan County Sheriff’s Office deputy shot 44-year-old Jason Kougl in an apparent attempt to keep Kougl from harming himself — the sheriff’s office said Kougl was suicidal and holding a knife to his chin when he was shot. That deputy has not been identified and Kougl, like Reed, has not been charged with a crime.
In September, an Okmulgee County deputy shot and killed 54-year-old Justin Snelson after the two were “involved in an encounter.” Snelson, the sheriff’s office said, was being pursued by the deputy when he crashed his motorcycle, then was shot.
Sheriff Eddie Rice at first repeatedly denied to release the deputy’s name to The Frontier, then eventually confirmed the deputy’s name as Ethan Mulkey to a reporter. In another case, Stillwater police investigating the fatal officer-involved shooting of 31-year-old John Domingues said the officers’ who killed Domingues wouldn’t be identified unless they were charged with a crime.
Domingues was armed with a knife and a gun and was apparently in the midst of a mental breakdown just before he was shot by police — he had called 911 to say that he was going to jump into traffic and had previously told dispatchers who asked where he was going that he was headed “to hell.” Those factors made it extremely unlikely the officers who shot him would face criminal charges, so for a time it appeared the public would never know their identity.
However, in the weeks following, the department reversed course and identified the officers as being Michael Casteel and Trevor Meridith, each of whom had been with the department for nearly a decade.
Shootings where officers were not identified
Jan. 18 – Bartlesville police shoot and kill 72-year-old Geraldine Townsend.
Feb. 4 – Logan County Sheriff’s Office shoots 44-year old Jason Douglas Kougl, who survives.
March 21 – Mannford police shoot and kill 47-year-old Mark Allen Lunn.
March 25 – Lawton police shoot 27-year-old Steven Anthony Thompson, who survives.
April 4 – Okmulgee police shoot and kill Deshawn Carswell, 35.
April 17 – Tishomingo Police and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office shoot and kill 39-year-old Justin Monjay.
May 6 – The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office shoots and kills 39-year-old Franklin Robert Vaughn.
May 11 – Bradley Webster, 53, is shot and killed by a task force including the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Talihina police the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and the LeFlore County Sheriff’ Office.
May 17 – Daniel Timothy Johnson, 34, is shot and killed by a U.S. Marshals Service task force.
May 27 – Ponca City police shoot Larry Durbin, 40, who survives.
June 3 – Julio Hernandez-Mata, 32, is shot and killed by a group of officers including the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the OHP, Chickasha Police and the Grady County Sheriff’s Office.
June 15 – Tonkawa police shoot 70-year-old Ronald Dean Minix, who was reportedly holding a handgun to his head. He survives.
Oct. 8 – Alexander Gabrial Lindahl, 24, is shot and killed by the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office.
Oct. 23 – Tulsa police shoot and kill 37-year-old Shaunday Mullins.
Nov. 17 – James Clyde Jenks, 42, is shot by the Payne County Sheriff’s Office. He survives.
Dec. 9 – Members of the Perry Police Department and Noble County Sheriff’s Office are pursuing 39-year-old Shane Adair Wentling when he allegedly pulls a gun on them and is shot and killed by return fire.
Dec. 18 – Layland Lewis Jr., 37, is shot by the Noble Police Department. He survives.
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