Listen to this article here
LAWTON, Okla.–The sister of a man who was arrested and booked after a taser deployment by Lawton Police on August 15 has filed a request for an internal affairs investigation.
The formal complaint claims LPD violated his state and federal constitutional rights.
On Tuesday, Sept. 12, Justine Howard addressed the Lawton City Council. She demanded answers and recounted the pain the arrest has inflicted on her family.
In an interview with The Black Wall Street Times, Howard broke into tears as she described her attempt to get her brother medical treatment at Comanche County Detention Center following the bloody arrest.
“I asked them at the front desk can they please do something to help him. Because he had no blanket, no pillow. He was on a bench. I begged them to give him something. Because stuff is just oozing out of his face and his ear,” Howard told The Black Wall Street Times.
On August 15, Lawton Police received a tip from an unknown citizen that Robert Charles Rodgers had a warrant out for his arrest and that he was at an apartment complex on NW 20th Street. Responding to the tip, officers discovered he had a felony warrant for trafficking narcotics. They arrived at the apartment around 5 a.m. looking for Rodgers, according to an LPD press release.
Lawton Police Department says when its officers identified themselves to Rodgers, he ran away. After a brief chase, they stopped him with a taser, which led to him falling hard face first into the ground. They apprehended him and booked him into the Comanche County Jail. Justine Howard, Rodgers’ older sister, obtained his booking photo, which showed a bloody, bruised face.
Sharing it on Facebook, Howard disputed LPD’s claim that Rodgers fell during the arrest, and the post went viral in a city known for violent, sometimes deadly arrests of Black residents.
Meanwhile, in a relatively quick response, LPD released body cam footage of the arrest days later. The dark, grainy video showed Rodgers running away. Seconds into the pursuit, a Lawton Police officer deploys a taser, which appeared to cause Rodgers to fall hard onto the pavement.
“Because Mr. Rodgers was tased as he was running, his forward momentum caused him to fall face first onto the ground,” LPD stated.
Yet in an interview with The Black Wall Street Times, Howard said she believes Rodgers, who has a learning disability, is receiving inadequate care while in custody.
“When I talk to him on the phone. His voice is just, he asked the nurse on duty if they could give him something to kill him because he’s in so much pain,” Howard said through tears.
Attorney for Rodgers says bond is “ridiculously high”
LPD says they found eight bags of methamphetamine on Rodgers during his arrest. He faces three felony counts: possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute, possession of paraphernalia, and obstructing an officer, according to court records.
Mark Myles, an Oklahoma city attorney with clients around the state, is representing Rodgers. In an interview with The Black Wall Street Times, he said he was able to negotiate Rodgers’ bail down from $50,000 per charge to $30,000 per charge.
“The next step is to see if we can get him out. His bond is ridiculously high,” attorney Miles told The Black Wall Street Times on Tuesday. “If he were facing a bond in Oklahoma city it wouldn’t be as high as it is down there.”
Moving forward, attorney Miles said will push to get Rodgers out on medical oral regocnizance.
An OR bond is a type of bond where a judge releases an individual from jail on their ‘own recognizance’ without requiring a cash bail on the promise that they will return to court for their court date, according to the Arnall Family Foundation.
Formal complaint claims Lawton Police taser deployment violated state, federal civil rights
Meanwhile, Howard believes the officers violated department policies and federal law when they arrested her brother. At the end of August she filed a complaint of “deprivation of constitutional rights” with city officials.
“This situation has caused my family a lot of anxiety and emotional distress,” Howard told members of Lawton City Council on Tuesday.
“My brother has unseen disabilities. Lawton Police did not follow best practices by yelling ‘taser’ before he was tased. He was shot in the back while running away. He was afraid,” she said holding back tears.
She accuses the officers of deploying their taser unnecessarily over a nonviolent offense. She also wants an investigation into whether the jail has deprived his rights. He faces a $30,000 bond for each of the three counts.
Calling LPD’s policies on foot pursuits and use of force “outdated,” Howard accuses the police of misrepresenting what took place during the arrest and failing to abide by the U.S. Constitution.
“The officers, acting under state law, violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of Mr. Rodgers,” the complaint states.
“The state should be held for creating or increasing a danger to Mr. Rodgers. The “failure to train” and “failure to supervise” the use of Conducted Electrical Devices (CEDs) by LPD superiors and training officers is per se unreasonable,” the complaint added.
Did Lawton Police violate its own policy on taser use?
Policies on use of force and taser deployment appear on page 268 of the Lawton Police Department training manual.
According to the manual, “A Taser may be used when other less lethal force options have been ineffective or when it reasonably appears that such option will be ineffective in subduing the subject.”
Specifically, it states the taser may be used if all three scenarios are met:
- Lesser force options have been or are likely to be ineffective, and
- The officer reasonably believes the suspect poses a threat of injury or
death to himself, the public, or officers, and
- The subject poses the threat from a distance and the officer is at greater risk if he/she attempts to close the gap.
In Rodgers’ case, the video released by LPD clearly showed him running away from the officers. In the case of Zonterius Johnson, a 24-year-old Black man who was celebrating his birthday before Lawton police eventually chased him down and shot him to death after he turned around.
Yet the video released by Lawton Police did not show Rodgers turning around before their officer deployed a taser. Notably, the arrest was for a felony possession and intent to distribute, which are nonviolent offenses. It’s unclear how officers deemed Rodgers as a threat of injury or death to himself, the public or officers.
Lawton Police Chief James Smith did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Black Wall Street Times.
Rodgers is “going to need surgery”, sister says
Furthermore, in her address to city council on Tuesday, Justine Howard noted that the officers should’ve known her brother’s body would lock up immediately after being tased.
According to the LPD training manual, “The Taser temporarily overrides the central nervous system and directly controls the skeletal muscles. In most cases, this causes an uncontrollable contraction of the muscle tissue, allowing the Taser to physically debilitate a subject regardless of pain tolerance or mental focus.”
Howard told City Council it should investigate Lawton Police policies and patterns of action on taser use. She noted that after he fell, officers did not immediately provide medical care.
“This resulted in an indifference, a deliberate indifference for my brother. He was not committed to Comanche Memorial Hospital.”
She said part of his nose is detached. She also said his teeth are jammed back up to his gums and he’s going to need surgery.
“Thank you for coming,” Lawton Mayor Stan Booker told her.
Notably, two former Lawton Police Department face murder trials related to the shooting of unarmed Quadry Sanders. He had his hands up while on the ground when he was shot multiple times. They face a hearing on Sept. 21. as arbitrators have ruled they must be reinstated to the department.
Statewide, the U.S. Department of Justice is currently investigating whether the State of Oklahoma, OKC and Oklahoma City Police Department violate the civil rights of people with mental illnesses.