Tulsa police investigate officers' role in death of suspect

AP News
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Posted: Jun 03, 2016 11:31 PM

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Tulsa police said Friday that a 64-year-old man who died after an officer used pepper spray and a stun gun on him while attempting to serve a misdemeanor warrant for jaywalking had a medical issue that may have contributed to his death.

Ollie Lee Brooks died at a hospital after being chased down a flight of stairs, then tackled and handcuffed by officers performing a warrant sweep at a motel last Saturday, police said. They said two officers tried to arrest Brooks after noticing crack cocaine and a pipe in his motel room.

Police said a preliminary report from the state medical examiner suggested Brooks had an enlarged heart, which with overexertion may have contributed to his death, and Brooks' family said he suffered from congestive heart failure.

However, an attorney for the family also suggested police may have been overzealous in serving the warrant. Brooks had been out of legal trouble since his release from prison in 2001 and likely didn't know he had an outstanding warrant, attorney Laurie Phillips said.

"This is something he should have maybe been told about," Phillips said. "It's jaywalking, and these police officers know what it's for. They are targeting a hotel with poor people."

When the officers tried to arrest Brooks, he began fighting with them. That's when one of the officers used pepper spray and a stun gun to try to restrain him, according to police. Brooks broke free, ran out of the room and was eventually tackled. Brooks was taken to a hospital after he became ill as medics removed prongs from the stun gun, police spokeswoman Officer Jeanne MacKenzie said.

Police said the warrant sweep was properly conducted and that the motel is in a high-crime area.

"A warrant's a warrant," MacKenzie said.

Brooks was black and both of the officers involved in the arrest are white. MacKenzie said police do not believe race played a factor in the incident.

Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said the department took nearly a week to announce the death because it believed it was due to a medical issue.

"We have no reason to believe this is anything other than a medical issue," Jordan said at a news conference.

Jordan said the two officers involved in the arrest — Larry Crawford and Barry Hamm — have no use-of-force complaints on their records and both were allowed to return to duty Thursday after the department determined they acted properly to restrain Brooks.

"I'm 68 years old," Jordan said. "If I came at you (and you had a stun gun), would you use it?"

The officers were not wearing body cameras, and police are searching for any footage that might have been recorded at the motel or surrounding buildings, Jordan said. The department will submit its investigation to the district attorney for review.

Marq Lewis, founder of the local civil rights group We the People Oklahoma, questioned why so much force was needed to restrain Brooks, given his age and the nature of the offense.

"The death is a result of a collection on fines," Lewis said. "It's jaywalking."