Wednesday, June 5, 2019

DA Says Officer-Involved Shooting Justified; Officers Back to Work


Investigations by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the District 27 District Attorney’s office have revealed that two Sallisaw police officers were justified in the deadly force they used during a fatal officer-involved shooting March 14 in Sequoyah County.

District Attorney Jack Thorp said Sallisaw police officers Devin Harriman and Coty Biles were justified in their use of deadly force that injured Shawn Watie, who later died at NHS Sequoyah due to the injuries sustained during an incident on South Highway 59 just after 9 a.m. March 14.

Thorp said after reviewing the report completed by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, headed by Special Agent Robert Walden, along with the autopsy report, he decided not to file charges against Harriman or Biles.

“It is clear from the investigation, statements of witnesses, corroborating physical evidence and findings of the Medical Examiner, that Officer Harriman and Detective Biles were acting justifiably under Oklahoma Law when they utilized deadly force in self-defense, upon Shawn Watie on March 14, 2019, in Sequoyah County, Oklahoma,” Thorp said in a letter to Walden.

The letter also details events surrounding that day, in which Sallisaw police were alerted to a suspect who matched the description of an armed-and-dangerous wanted fugitive, Travis Davis, seen south of Sallisaw.

Harriman was dispatched to the call as he was leaving his home, and did not have the opportunity to retrieve his body camera from the police station. Harriman located the alleged suspect, and because he believed this suspect to be Davis, he ordered him to get on his knees. Watie failed to comply with the order, and “inexplicably pulled a knife out of his clothing, gripped it in his hand and began pacing,” according to the letter.

Harriman ordered Watie to comply with his commands numerous times, and Harriman called for officer assistance “as it was clear Watie was acting dangerous, and was armed with a deadly weapon.”

According to the investigation, Watie then started toward Harriman and said “Sorry I hate that I have to do this to you.”

Biles arrived at that time and Harriman advised the suspect had a knife. Watie continued toward Harriman, coming to within 3 to 5 feet of Harriman, who responded by firing his weapon at and into Watie. Biles also responded using deadly force against Watie.

Thorp said multiple civilian witnesses observed the action described in the report, specifically corroborating that Watie moved forward toward officers while he was at gunpoint. OSBI crime scene agents recovered two lock blade type knives from the scene.

The medical examiner’s report ruled that Watie died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds, but also noted a laceration of the right thumb, which corroborated statements of Watie possessing a knife in the manner described by Harriman.

Thorp also said it appears Watie was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of his death. According to the medical examiner’s report, Watie had .83 mcg/mL of methamphetamine and less than .13 mcg/mL of amphetamine in his system.

Captain Jeff Murray of the Sallisaw Police Department said both Harriman and Biles will be returning to work immediately. They have been on administrative leave since March.

Pam Cloud, Managing News Director

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