By Mike Creef and Deon Osborne
It’s a trend that we’ve been seeing increase over the last few years. A White person gets upset at a Black person for whatever reason, they call the police usually exaggerating details or flat out lying, and the police come to a situation where they usually aren’t needed with weapons drawn.
That was the case for Steven (Stevie) Bomar last Tuesday when he found himself being held at gunpoint by officers from the Norman Police Department while he was getting gas for his vehicle.
Bodycam footage obtained through FOIA request
“I needed gas so I pulled into the Tecumseh On Cue and that’s when three cops showed up there with their guns drawn”. The incident occurred in Westside Norman near the corner of Flood and Tecumseh. The incident comes weeks after Norman City Council allocated $500,000 to a mobile crisis response program.
The Black Wall Street Times was the first publication to report this story after filing a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) with the Norman Police Department. We were able to obtain the 911 call, bodycam footage, and the police report.
According to the 911 call, a White couple driving in a Nissan Armada with a large Back the Blue sign called the police on “a Black guy who pulled a gun” on the couple at a stoplight after he cut them off.
Road Rage ends with Racist 911 call
Yet, from Steven’s point of view, he was minding his own business when the White couple initiated road rage by cutting him off, giving him the middle finger, and calling him the n-word.
Instead of matching the energy from Road Rage Rick and Rita, Steven calmly ignored them and made his way to a gas station. He had no idea that moments after he got out of his car, a group of NPD officers would approach him with guns drawn.
Weaponizing police against Black men
“Two of them were giving me different commands, one was telling me to put my hands on the steering wheel and one was telling me to get out and get on the ground,” said Bomar.
“I told him that I was f-ing scared and I didn’t know what to do, I just wanted to comply. I was detained and they told me that someone called road rage on me and that I was chasing them with a gun, and as you can imagine the cops did not find any gun.”
Last year in Central Park a White woman was recorded on camera during an altercation with a Black man saying that she was “going to call the police and tell them an African American man is threatening my life”. All because a Black avid birdwatcher asked her to leash her dog, which is required in Central Park.
Racist 911 callers terrorize without consequences
In her article for Vox explaining why White people keep calling the cops on Black Americans, Vesla Mae Weaver said “the gulf between how black America and white America experience the police is vast.”
A large part of White America views the police as their own personal security detail that they can wield at the slightest inconvenience. If there is an incident involving a Black person, the caller knows that all they have to do is say the right words to the police in order to get the most extreme response.
“I’m not really mad at [the police], I understand they just heard a Black guy was chasing somebody with a gun and they came in with their guns drawn at me,” said Bomar. “I am really upset about those people just randomly calling the cops on me saying I have a gun because I’m in a nice car and I’m Black with dreadlocks.”
Public Information Officer says police followed protocol
In an interview with The Black Wall Street Times, NPD Public Information Officer Sarah Jensen said, while the incident was unfortunate, police had no choice but to respond in that manner.
“This is standard response protocol on a report of an individual feloniously pointing a firearm at another individual(s). Based on the information reported to the Norman Communications Center, officers responded in a manner that prioritizes safety for all,” PIO Sarah Jensen said.
According to Steven Bomar, the police on scene were remorseful after they heard his side of the story while he was in handcuffs. The supervisor was brought to the scene to extend his apologies and reiterate that the officers responded to the information provided, telling him that false information like this makes the police look bad to the public eye.
City Councilors review footage
“The officers were not apologizing for any wrongdoing or their actions. The apology from the officers on scene was in relation to the circumstances of the incident,” Jensen said.
Officers did attempt to call the White couple back multiple times unsuccessfully. But for many in the community, the protocols around filing police reports make it too easy for racists to weaponize the department against unsuspecting Black men in Norman, a former Sundown town.
Brandi Studley is a Norman City Councilor representing Ward 1, where Steven Bomar lives, though the altercation took place in Ward 6. On Friday, Brandi and Ward 7 City Councilor Stephen Tyler Holman went to the police station to review the bodycam footage.
The responding officers involved in the incident were Officer Williams of Unit 2E3, Officer Melton of Unit 2E6, Officer Maldonado of Unit 2W6 and Officer Brown of Unit 2W7, according to the report: NPD Incident Report 2021-00035206.
Caller gave false contact information to police
“I was honestly shocked at how calm everyone was in the whole situation. Stevie was extremely calm. Police were extremely calm in my opinion,” Councilor Studley told The Black Wall Street Times. She explained how she and Holman asked Police Chief Kevin Foster for details on protocol for how to handle false police reports. Evidently, Chief Foster told them they would jot down the caller’s number and take action if it happens a second time.
“And that’s not an acceptable answer. So, Holman and I both just relayed the point that this is a very serious incident and that it could’ve gone way worse had Stevie not been as calm as he was. And I know personally I could not have been as calm as he was with a gun in my face and nobody initially telling me what was going on,” Councilor Studley said.
After viewing the footage and talking with the chief, City Councilors Studley and Holman learned that the 911 caller gave a number that didn’t match the number he called from and gave a false name.
Caller had Back the Blue on his car
“They did say, even in the video and in the station while we were watching, that because he had a light blue Nissan with a big Back the Blue symbol it’s not gonna be that difficult to find,” Councilor Studley added. She and Holman want to see NPD prioritze finding the couple and looking at protocols for how officers should respond to these situations.
“When this cop jumped out with his gun it was 5:45 on a Tuesday evening. He jumps out and there’s people all at the gas pump. That’s scary. What would you have done if Stevie did have a gun and jumped out and started shooting?” Councilor Studley asked.
She empathized with officers who go into situations not knowing what to expect, but said “I couldn’t imagine being Stevie in that situation at all.”
NPD denies any wrongdoing
In a follow-up call with Public Information Officer Sarah Jensen, she told The Black Wall Street Times that an investigation into the call is ongoing.
“The incident is currently under investigation by the Criminal Investigations Division. Investigators are working to make contact with the reporting party to determine the validity of the information provided. Further action will follow the course of the investigation and its outcomes,” Jensen said.
But for many, the police response represents a double standard.
Double standard in police responses
Holly Jameson-Birden is a resident of Norman who experienced this double standard firsthand. She and her partner of 10 years, Jessica, are both former Norman Public Schools teachers. They adopted four of Jessica’s former students after they went into foster care. Holly told The Black Wall Street Times she and her family had to move after spending two years in a gated community on Westside Norman due to an incident involving a White man with a gun. Holly and Jessica are White, while their Black children were ages 3, 6, 7, and 13, at the time.
“We were probably one of the first minority families to move into the neighborhood” Holly said.
“The treatment, attitudes and horrible things we dealt with in those two years forced us to sell our home and move.”
Couple’s Black children face racism in Westside Norman
Jameson-Birden explained that over the years, her kids had been repeatedly labeled “the Black kids” of the neighborhood, trucks have followed her 13 year-old-son while he was walking down the street, and other kids call them “monkey” at school.
The last straw, Jameson-Birden said, was when a White man pulled a gun on her unleashed dog while her kids were outside trying to retrieve the Great Dane.
Holly ran after the dog while the man and his wife kept walking with a gun around the kids. She said “please don’t do that. Please put your gun away.”
Officers respond calmly to gun call in gated community
He didn’t put his gun away, though, and Holly’s wife Jessica called 911. They got the kids in the van to look for Gypsie, the family dog. Moments later, officers leisurely arrived, took statements from both parties, and sent them all on their way.
While Holly admitted that her dog running out the door allowed for the man to claim he feared for his life, she doesn’t think the outcome would’ve been the same had she been Black.
“He [the officer] did a good job, but we were both White citizens in an affluent part of Norman.”
Attorney Ben Crump responds to racist 911 caller incident
Even nationally recognized civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who has represented the families of police murder victims, demanded consequences for the false accusations that nearly cost Steven Bomar his life.
“Cops held Steven Bomar at gunpoint after a racist driver called in a false report to 911. Unfortunately, we see this too often,” Crump said on Twitter.
“911 calls used as weapons against Black people. They can quickly turn deadly for innocent parties. There must be consequences for false accusations!”
Cops held Steven Bomar at gunpoint after a racist driver called in a false report to 911. Unfortunately, we see this too often… 911 calls used as weapons against Black people. They can QUICKLY turn deadly for innocent parties. There must be consequences for false accusations! pic.twitter.com/k6ySgPipEM
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) June 24, 2021
Taking a new look at old protocols
Beyond that, many in the community are still seeking justice after a man shot a dog at a dog park earlier this year.
For Holly Jameson-Birden, who also sits on the Norman Citizens Advisory Board, police officers respond differently depending on the neigborhood. She clarified, though, that she was not speaking on behalf of the board. Still, she said she plans to dive deeper into NPD’s protocols.
“Definitely I would be interested in looking at protocol. Because when my wife called she clearly stated “there is a man with a gun and there are kids outside,” Jameson-Birden said.
Tensions between the City of Norman’s progressive image and the growing right-wing movement being led by “Unite Norman” continue to intensify. And the community continues to grapple with its racist legacy. Meanwhile, Black and brown residents attempt to just live their lives.
Ultimately, multiple states began introducing bills in 2020 in order to crack down on racially motivated calls to police. In June, New York lawmakers passed legislation that would allow victims of false, biased 911 calls to sue.