Video: Police shot OKC teen through a hole in a fence

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Lorenzo Clerkley, Jr. was shot twice by Oklahoma City police in March 2019. BRIANNA BAILEY/The Frontier

Clarification: This story has been updated to make it clear that body camera video shows Sgt. Kyle Holcomb shooting Lorenzo Clerkley Jr. two seconds after Holcomb began issuing commands to the Oklahoma City teenager.

In March, police shot 14-year old Lorenzo Clerkley, Jr. while he and his friends were hanging out at an abandoned house in southeast Oklahoma City. Some of the kids were playing with BB guns.

Clerkley, who was shot in the right hip and the left thigh, says he didn’t see the police officer or have a chance to comply with his orders before he was shot. He was attempting to climb out a back window of the house when he was shot, he said.

“All I hear is ‘freeze.’ I jumped up and looked and he just started shooting,” said Clerkley.

Body camera footage from the shooting, provided by Clerkley’s attorney, shows Oklahoma City Police Department Sgt. Kyle Holcomb opening fire on the teenager from a hole in a wooden fence behind the house.

Tulsa attorney Dan Smolen, who is representing Clerkley and the teenager’s mother, Cherelle Lee, claims Holcomb didn’t properly identify himself as a police officer or give Clerkley enough time to comply with his orders. Instead, the officer almost immediately opened fire on the teenager.

Holcomb, seen on body camera footage, was holding a handgun in one hand and his radio in the other.

“Hey,” The police officer yelled as he approached an old wooden fence. “Police department, come on out.”

“I think it’s a cap gun, they are shooting something,” Holcomb said into his radio as he approached the fence.

“Show me your hands, drop it,” Holcomb yelled at Clerkley.

Two seconds after beginning to issue that command, and less than a second after finishing, Holcomb fired four shots at the teenager. Holcomb then yells “Drop the gun.”

At first, Clerkley said he didn’t realize he had been shot. He says he fell back through the window and lost consciousness for a moment.

“Then, I just started peeing on myself — I was laughing, thinking ‘why am I peeing on myself?,’” Clerkley said. “I tried to pull my pants up and I saw holes in my pants on my hips and stuff and started panicking.”

Clerkley says one of the police officers dragged him by the collar of his sweatshirt away from the house through a pile of broken glass as he awaited paramedics.

OKC Police Department Capt. Bo Mathews told The Frontier in an email “it was described” that Clerkley “went back inside the house and was captured at the front of the house.”

In the video, Clerkley can be seen handcuffed, prone on the ground, audibly crying as Holcomb examined his wounds. The police officer told the teenager that he would survive.

Clerkley and his friends had met up that afternoon to play basketball, but ended up going to the abandoned house to play with BB guns when it started to rain.

A neighbor called the police to report two young black males wearing hooded sweatshirts in the neighborhood — possibly carrying guns, according to a police report.

After the shooting, Clerkley was taken to OU Medical Center and released after a few hours.

“I kept asking them to call my mom,” he said.

 Lee said neither police nor the hospital ever contacted her to let her know her son had been shot.

She only learned of the shooting from her cousin, who had dropped off Clerkley that day to play basketball with his friends.

The cousin called Lee after returning to pick Clerkley up and seeing the street lined with police officers.

Smolen said police violated the Clerkley’s Fourth Amendment rights by using “excessive deadly force.” Additionally, Holcomb did not give the teenager sufficient time to comply with his commands, he said.

“Here, Sergeant Holcomb did not give Lorenzo any time to comply with his commands and did not have probable cause to believe that Lorenzo posed a threat of serious physical harm to anyone when he began shooting,” Smolen said.

He added: “Further, Holcomb had the cover and protection of the wooden fence when he encountered Lorenzo, who was a safe distance away.”

Smolen plans to file a civil rights claim against the Oklahoma City Police Department and Holcomb on behalf of Clerkley and his mother.

Smolen claims that when Holcomb approached Clerkley, the youth had his hands down by his side and appeared to not be holding anything.

“The officer ordered him to drop the gun,” Mathews told News9 in March. “The suspect did not comply with these orders.”

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A police report states officers found a pistol in a bathroom of that unoccupied house.

However, the Oklahoma City Police Department provided The Frontier with an incident report from the shooting and images of the “C02 powered B.B./.177 cal gun” they said Clerkley had when he was shot. 

The “CO2 powered B.B./.177 cal gun” Oklahoma City police say 14-year-old Lorenzo Clerkley was holding when he was shot by Officer Kyle Holcomb last March. Courtesy

In April, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater determined the shooting was justified. Mathews told The Frontier in an email that charges against the boys  “were presented by homicide detectives to the  Juvenile Bureau of the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office.  They accepted the charges.” He did not say when the charges were presented or when they were accepted. 

In an email sent to Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty, who has since retired, Prater said Holcomb was cleared to return to duty.

“Holcomb had a reasonable belief that he was about to be shot by Clerkley,” Prater wrote in the April 12 email.

Clerkley’s injuries have made basketball — his favorite sport — painful.

More than that, Clerkley and his mother say they no longer feel safe in the community.

Hanging out in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown district with his friends last weekend, Clerkley couldn’t eat at McDonald’s or Sonic. Police officers in the area made him too nervous, he said.

“Y’all really tried to kill my son for nothing,” Lee said. “What if my son would have got shot in the head for nothing? Do you not like black people or something? I want to know.”

Frontier staff writers Dylan Goforth and Kassie McClung contributed to this report.

Related reading

Shot by Shot: Oklahoma officer-involved shootings in 2019

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Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey grew up in Idaho. Oklahoma is her adopted home. Bailey has covered issues ranging from Oklahoma's strained child welfare system to the slow decline of Oklahoma's rural hospitals. She has walked all the way across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to south via Western Avenue and once via the old U.S. Route 66. Her hobbies are baking and crashing meetings she isn't invited to attend. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The University of Oklahoma. Email her at brianna@readfrontier.com
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