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A man who escaped conflict in Sudan for a better life in the U.S. was shot and killed while working at a Seaboard Foods pork processing plant in Guymon, Oklahoma on Jan. 9 after his managers called police to settle a worker dispute.

The shooting death of 26-year-old Sudanese refugee Chiewelthap Mariar has drawn outrage from workers and members of the small Oklahoma panhandle community who say management at Seaboard Foods Factory overreacted to a verbal dispute.

At least one worker filmed parts of the incident and was fired for doing so, according to an anonymous interview with the Guardian. 

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Processing at Seaboard Foods (Seaboard Foods)

The worker claims management fired Mariar but told him to finish working his shift, which involved using a band cutter. He also claimed that they were made to get back to work within minutes after witnessing their coworker get killed on the plant floor. 

“I witnessed the entire thing, from when they started arguing with him until he was shot,” the worker told the Guardian. “He had a company-issued band-cutter in his hand. When the police got to the plant, the guy was already working, minding his own business.”

OSBI takes over investigation after Guymon police shoot worker during shift

The Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation has begun looking into the case and released a different interpretation of the altercation in a press release on Jan. 10.

“At 8:19 p.m., Guymon police answered a call for service at that same address in reference to an agitate and disgruntled employee at a local business,” OSBI stated.

OSBI claims Mariar “produced a knife and began advancing on officers.”

Cell phone footage released on social media provides an obscure view of the incident.

The roughly 1-minute video appears to show officers aggressively speaking with Mariar as he moves around in an agitated manner. At one point officers quickly back up as Mariar moves around to the other side of their position.

It isn’t clear what Mariar is doing with his hands, but another worker loading boxes can be seen in plain view just behind the altercation.

According to the OSBI, officers say they first deployed a taser, but that Mariar continued approaching them. Officers then shot him, and he was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Black Wall Street Times reached out to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which refused to comment beyond the press release or identify any of the officers involved in the killing. The Black Wall Street Times also reached out to the Guymon Police Department, which declined to comment and referred all questions back to OSBI.

Nationally, police killings reached a record high in 2022, with at least 1,176 killings recorded. The killing of Mariar represents the first police killing in Oklahoma in 2023, according to the Frontier, which tracks police killings.

Workers union calls for federal investigation, community members speak out

Some in the community speculated that Mariar may have had a mental illness, and that a second taser deployment would’ve been sufficient to deescalate the situation.

“Local police did not take sufficient measures to protect our members and the worker – brandishing their weapons and ultimately taking a life of a 26-year-old-man who had his whole life ahead of him,” the local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers union said in a statement on Jan. 11. 

The union has called for a federal investigation into Mariar’s killing.

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A woman who moved away from Guymon two years ago told The Black Wall Street Times that police there believe they’re “untouchable” and often hold racist attitudes toward Black people and immigrants. She also said Seaboard Foods has a reputation for not caring about its employees.

“My husband is an ex-employee. One of the reasons we moved was racist people and cops and Seaboard,” the woman, whose husband and son are Black, told The Black Wall Street Times. She asked to remain anonymous since she still has family living in the town.

“Being in the panhandle, they are out of the way and not really close to anything,” she said about Guymon police.

“I worked in maintenance. All they had us do was cover the scene with plastic, and we proceeded to finish what was on the production line,” the worker who spoke with the Guardian added. “This company fired me for recording the truth they were trying to brush under the mat. They never asked me if I was OK. It was my first time seeing a guy get killed – and then I get fired.”

Seaboard Foods has an abysmal track record for worker safety

Seaboard Corporation is one of the largest in the world, with $9 billion in annual revenue, according to Fortune Magazine.

Over 2,600 workers process over 6 million pigs a year at the Guymon plant, which has been criticized for its handling of the Covid pandemic, in which nearly half of workers tested positive and several died, KOSU reported in April 2021.

The plant was also cited by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, in June last year for failing to document employee injuries and illnesses 51 times over a two-month period.

“To think Mr. Mariar and his family came to this country to escape the violence and strife of Sudan, settled in Guymon, Oklahoma to contribute to the economy of our country, and died senselessly on the shop floor,” the UFCW2 union stated.

Seaboard Foods released the following statement:

“We express our heartfelt sorrow to Chiewelthap Mariar’s family, coworkers, friends and those affected by his death following an incident at our Guymon processing plant involving the Guymon Police Department on January 9,” Seaboard Foods Senior Director of Communications David Eaheart told The Black Wall Street Times via email.

“Providing our employees with a safe work environment and their well-being is extremely important to us. Following repeated attempts to bring calm to the situation, we requested assistance from the Guymon Police as we felt it was in the best interest for everyone’s safety. Following the incident, operations were ceased for the remainder of the evening and the following day, and we provided in-person counseling services for employees throughout the week in addition to ongoing phone counseling services available 24 hours seven days a week.” 

The Seaboard Foods representative added that the company is cooperating fully with OSBI and that the worker was not fired at the time of the incident.

The Black Wall Street Times spoke with the District Attorney who represents Texas County, in which Guymon resides. His office is waiting for OSBI to release their final report before determining whether the officers involved should be arrested.

“If we feel a crime was committed and we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt, we will file charges,” DA George Leach told The Black Wall Street Times.

The Black Wall Street Times has reached out to Guyman Police Department for body cam footage of the killing.

This is a developing story.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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2 Comments

  1. I was the employee who recorded the video and was terminated I have a second video I’d like to share just so you can see how seaboard employee superintendent and supervisor help officers hold the 26 yr old down after he collapsed for the gunshot until he stops moving completely

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