(Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include a GoFundMe for the family.)
Family members and community advocates held a “cruise for LaRue Bratcher” in Oklahoma City on Saturday as the United States army veteran remains in jail on murder charges for using lethal force to defend his cannabis cultivation company from an attempted burglar.
“When you’re in trouble, somebody has to fight for you,” Derrick Neighbors, LaRue Bratcher’s uncle, said, according to News 9. “This is my family and we’re going to fight for him.”
Rally to support LaRue Bratcher
Relatives and supporters at Saturday’s rally called on all Oklahomans to support a family that has given back to the country and community.
A caravan of supporters started at the Ice Event Center, making their way through downtown Oklahoma City before stopping at the County Jail. For nearly two hours they chanted “justice for LaRue Bratcher” and “free LaRue Bratcher” in order to raise awareness for his case, according to the OKC-based news outlet The Black Times.
LaRue Bratcher called the police in the early morning hours of May 26, 2020 shortly after he shot and killed an alleged burglar attempting to break into his cannabis cultivation company for the second time.
Bratcher was defending his business from intruder
According to the family, Bratcher meant to fire warning shots, though one ended up striking and killing the man, later identified as 42-year-old Daniel Hardwick. Because Bratcher’s cannabis business license was expired at the time, police arrested him.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who previously placed terrorism charges on unarmed Black and brown activists during George Floyd protests in 2020, decided to place second-degree murder charges on the veteran. Bratcher’s wife, children and six-month-old baby were escorted out of their home at gunpoint.
DA charges Black veteran with first-degree murder
Weeks later, the charges were upgraded to first-degree murder, with Bratcher being held at the Oklahoma County Jail. Officials denied his bond, and relatives and friends wonder why, considering he’s a business owner in the community who expressed remorse for using lethal force to defend himself in a state that prides itself on standing one’s ground.
“It’s just me with the kids, and to know that you go from one charge to the next charge and not knowing what’s going to happen. It’s like our life is at suspense right now, LaRue’s wife Vicky Bratcher previously told local media.
Oklahoma’s Stand Your Ground law reads in part:
“A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
OMMA updates license renewal policy
Because Bratcher’s cannabis license had expired at the time he stood his ground, prosecutors view his actions as unlawful, felonious activity.
Yet, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, which oversees all aspects of the medical cannabis industry, including license renewals, has previously claimed it takes days or even weeks to process a new application.
This year, the OMMA updated its policy to allow cardholders to apply for a new license while still using their expired one until the new one comes in the mail. It’s unclear whether charges would’ve been brought against Bratcher had this policy been in place last year.
Instead, Vicky Bratcher has been forced to take over the family business, raise their kids, and advocate for her husband’s release. Saturday’s rally proved that she has supporters in the community willing to have her back.
“I just wanted to thank everyone for supporting my Dad, and I just really miss him,” Bratcher’s daughter, LaRiah Bratcher, said at the rally, according to The Black Times. “I want him home because he’s my protector and supporter… every day when I wake up I just want him to be home.”