Tuesday, June 30, 2020

CN Adds COVID-19 Surface Testing at Tribal Government Offices for Increased Safety

Cherokee Nation Environmental Specialists Nick Clark and Logan Girty swab a high-touch surface with an environmental testing swab that will be tested for traces of COVID-19 to ensure employees are safe and that the tribe’s sanitation tactics are working in the fight against COVID-19.

The Cherokee Nation is adding surface testing to its list of safety protocols across its tribal government office locations. This new testing capability can detect the presence of COVID-19 in both the air and on surfaces to better protect employees and visitors inside. 

On June 4, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signed a contract with Elite Element Testing Laboratory out of Sallisaw to perform and provide results of environmental testing within Cherokee Nation government buildings and offices across the tribe’s 14 counties. The signing of the agreement is also a result of the resolution passed by the Council of the Cherokee Nation in late April, approving Chief Hoskin to enter into contracts that are a part of the tribe’s direct response effort to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“As we reopened our facilities it was important to provide the safest conditions possible. And of course, we have been doing that by increasing our cleaning efforts and taking all the protocols that are necessary. But we are always looking for more opportunities to keep our workplace even safer,” said Chief Hoskin. “Through this contract, we are providing environmental services to the Cherokee Nation complex as well as across all of our tribal offices that test and actually detect the presence of the coronavirus on surfaces. That is important, so we can give peace of mind to our workforce and to our visitors. I also appreciate the Council, whose authority was put to excellent use to approve the contract to protect our workforce and our visitors as we respond to COVID-19.”

With the environmental testing system, called ENVIROx-RV, the COVID-19 virus can accurately be detected in less than six hours of the laboratory receiving the test sample. This rapid testing system can also detect as many as nine other viral organisms such as the flu in the air and on surfaces.

The tribe has now received about 900 testing kits, and has already begun conducting surface testing across several tribal departments that have the most contact with the general public.

Testing will continue in July and will be routinely performed in all of Cherokee Nation’s 150 government office locations within the tribe's 14 counties.

At each location, Cherokee Nation’s Environmental team carries out the testing process which includes using sterile swabs that are rolled over high-touch surfaces such as door knobs, light switches, desk and table tops as well as surfaces in public areas like waiting rooms and restrooms. Each swab is then placed in a separate test tube and labeled with the date and time of collection, sample number, building reference number, room or location, and employee number of the person collecting the sample. With detailed labeling, the area and location being tested can easily be identified should a test come back with traces of COVID-19.

The testing process is repeated using fresh swabs for each object and location being sampled.

In addition to being able to test for COVID-19, the environmental testing can also be used to validate the tribe’s cleaning and sanitation efforts. The Cherokee Nation implemented a number of safety measures since its June 1 reopening such as installing partitions at client interaction areas, requiring the use of masks and increasing its cleaning and disinfecting efforts.

“This new environmental testing method is just another way we are ensuring we provide a safe work environment for our employees and a safe environment for our citizens and visitors,” said Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Todd Enlow. “Protecting our staff against COVID-19 requires a multi-faceted approach, and with the safety and sanitation measures we have in place, we are instilling confidence and reassurance in our employees that their health and safety is our top priority.”

The environmental testing kits were purchased from a portion of the CARES Act stimulus funds the tribe received from the U.S. Treasury. A portion of the funding was set aside to help purchase safety and sanitation supplies for the workplace, including personal protective equipment for employees, various disinfectants as well as the aerosol and surface testing kits. 

KXMX News Staff 

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Muldrow Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Drug Trafficking

A Muldrow woman pleaded not guilty June 24 to a drug trafficking charge, an arrest report reveals.

Tabetha Scheel, 39, was also charged with unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

On June 16, a Sequoyah County Sheriff’s deputy was assisting the U.S. Marshals Service in executing a federal arrest warrant at a home at 112517 S. 4770 Road. The warrant was for Kevin Leon King, who was arrested at the scene along with Scheel.

A search of the residence turned up a set of digital scales with a white crystal-like residue on it, as well as a small, cut plastic straw, a plastic bag filled with the white substance, which tested positive for methamphetamine. Deputies also found about $1,400 cash in a safe.

Scheel’s bond was set at $15,000 and her next court appearance is at 9 a.m. Aug. 12.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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DPS Begins Issuing REAL ID Today

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) will begin issuing REAL ID to the public today at select locations. 

Citizens will be able to get a REAL ID at the main DPS location, 3600 N. Martin Luther King Ave., as well as the Edmond DPS location at 28 E. Main St.

Also today, crews will begin installing the new equipment at two Edmond tag agencies and citizens will be able to get a REAL ID at those locations by mid-morning. Those are Edmond Tag Agency at 2 W. First St. and Broadway Tag Agency at 3900 S. Broadway.

On Tuesday, the equipment will be installed at two additional Edmond tag agencies: Santa Fe Tag Agency at 338 S. Santa Fe Ave. and Woodcrest Tag Agency at 14700 S. Coltrane Road.

Oklahomans can make an appointment to visit a DPS location by going to ok.gov/dps and clicking on Online Services. If all appointments are booked, our locations are accepting walk-ins. Please remember that we are still requiring masks inside our facilities as well as limiting the number of people inside to allow for social distancing.

We anticipate that there could be long lines, so the agency is encouraging anyone whose license is not expiring soon to wait before coming in to get a REAL ID.

It is also important to remember that DPS is moving to central issuance with REAL ID. That means you will walk out of the office with a temporary, paper driver license. The actual REAL ID will come in the mail 7-10 business days later.

The Edmond locations are being brought on as part of phase two of the pilot testing program for REAL ID. Phase two will last two weeks and then the production of REAL ID will begin spreading to additional locations across the state. The next location to receive the new equipment will be the DPS location in south Oklahoma City at 728 E. Interstate 240 Service Road along with several surrounding tag agencies. REAL ID will then go from there to Tulsa locations.

Citizens can visit realid.ok.gov for complete REAL ID information including whether you need a REAL ID. If you determine you do want a REAL ID, there is a checklist on the website to help get all the documents in order that you will need to obtain the REAL ID. Citizens must have proof of identity (like a passport or certified birth certificate), proof of Social Security (like a Social Security card or W-2) and two proofs of residency (like a mortgage or lease agreement or utility bill). Anyone who has had a name change for reasons like marriage, divorce or adoption will need to bring in proof of that name change. The checklist contains a complete list of acceptable documents. There are also links to obtain copies of your birth certificate or Social Security card if you don't already have those.

The website also contains an interactive map showing participating locations issuing REAL ID. That portion of the website will be updated as new locations come online. The goal is to have all DPS facilities and participating tag agents across the state issuing REAL ID by the end of October.

The Department of Homeland Security pushed back the federal deadline for REAL ID in response to the COVID-19 pandemic from Oct. 1 of this year to Oct. 1, 2021. This means Oklahomans can continue to use their current Oklahoma driver license to board an airplane to fly domestically or enter federal facilities until October 2021.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Webbers Falls Man Faces Burglary, Assault Charges

A Webbers Falls man pleaded not guilty June 24 to charges of first-degree burglary and aggravated assault and battery, both felonies.

Colton Jack Russell, 24, faces up to 20 years in prison on the burglary count and up to a year in the county jail and a fine of up to $500 on the assault charge.

According to a police report, a Sequoyah County Sheriff’s deputy learned that Colton Russell had reportedly broken into a woman’s residence and assaulted her roommate.

When the deputy arrived at the scene, he saw that Dakota Rawlings, the roommate, had obvious injuries, including deep contusions above and below his left eye, deep contusions across his entire forehead, along with multiple lacerations.

Rawlings said he woke up around midnight June 16 and saw that Russell had opened the bedroom door and turned the light on. He said he didn’t even make it out of bed before Russell started to attack him. Rawlings said Russell must have entered the home through a window.

The woman living at the home, Jozee Summerlin, told the deputy that on the night of June 16, her baby was having a hard time going to sleep. She gave the baby a bath and finally got him down. Shortly after the baby fell asleep, she said, Russell, the baby’s father, came into the bedroom and attacked Rawlings.

Russell was then arrested and taken to the Sequoyah County Detention Center. His bond was set at $6,000.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Commissioners Vote to Surplus Unused Equipment

The Board of Commissioners for Sequoyah County voted unanimously Monday to declare as surplus several unused items at the Sequoyah County Health Department and the County Commissioners’ office.

Also at the weekly meeting, Steve Rutherford, Sequoyah County’s emergency management director, gave his report on the current coronavirus situation. He said there are currently 32 positive cases in the county (only 10 of those are active) and the death toll remains at three.

Representatives from the Health Department said anyone wanting a COVID-19 test is welcome to come to the department, by appointment only. To make an appointment, call (918) 775-2021. Testing is available from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Mondays-Fridays.

In other business, the commissioners also:

*Approved a bid by IPS Construction for the installment of a wheelchair lift at the Sequoyah County Courthouse. 

*Approved a Fiscal Year 2021 detention transportation agreement between the Office of Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs and the Sequoyah County commissioners

*Approved a contract between the Pittsburg County Regional Juvenile Detention Center and Sequoyah County.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Woman Charged With Exploiting Elderly Man

A Marble City woman was charged June 22 with the exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult.

On May 18, a police report shows, Traci Deionn Pruitt, 57, went to the home of a Webbers Falls man. She allegedly told him she needed help cashing a cashier’s check at his bank in Gore. Pruitt told the man the bank wouldn’t cash the check because she did not have the funds to cover it.

The man agreed to go to the bank, where they both signed the check. But on May 21, the man received notice from the bank that the check was not valid and the amount of $1,950 had been deducted from his account to cover the cost of the check.

The man’s power of attorney is held by Deborah Battenfield, who told officers the man is in the early stages of dementia and has a hard time remembering things.

Video footage from the bank captured the check signing and cash handout.

Battenfield provided a letter to the Gore police chief that explains the cashier’s check for $1,950 is bogus.

On May 26, an officer with the Gore Police Department met with Pruitt, who said she had briefly stayed with the elderly man and was his care provider. She told the officer that she used the proceeds from the cashed cashier’s check to pay fines in another county to prevent that county from issuing a warrant for her arrest.

Pruitt insisted she didn’t know the check was fake. She said she had received a package containing the cashier’s check in the mail, tried to cash it and finally called the man to help her.

The felony charge is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or 10 years in prison. Her bond was set at $5,000 and her next court appearance is at 9 a.m. Aug. 12.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Foster Care Training Coming to Sallisaw July 6-10

Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children has scheduled foster care training in Sallisaw from July 6-10 at First Baptist Church from 5-7:30 p.m.

The free training, which is required by the Department of Human Services, is designed to celebrate and encourage the many families who have opened their hearts and homes to foster children. Several Southern Baptist churches across Oklahoma are inviting foster parents to participate in the training while their children enjoy quality, age-appropriate activities.

You can approach registration as a “cafeteria-style” plan and select as many training sites as you desire. Participants are invited to attend one day or as many days of the event that fit into their schedules.

For more information or to register, visit obhc.org/FosterCareTraining.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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68th Annual Cherokee National Holiday to be Virtual

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced that the 68th Annual Cherokee National Holiday will be a virtual one this year.

Traditionally, the Cherokee national holiday draws more than 100,000 visitors from Oklahoma and out of state on Labor Day weekend. Because of the risks of COVID-19 and a recent uptick in cases in Oklahoma, and out of an abundance of caution for Cherokee citizen participants and visitors’ safety, the holiday will be celebrated by watching many key events online.

“It’s important we celebrate the great achievements of the Cherokee Nation, our government and our citizens, but COVID-19 still remains a threat, especially for our elders, and our community, with the thousands potentially coming into the Cherokee Nation Labor Day weekend,” Hoskin said. “This was a tough decision but we always want to err on the side of caution and protect our employees who put on the events and the public, so this year we felt it best to share our Cherokee national holiday celebration and traditions safely online for viewers around the globe to tune in and see.”

This year spectators will be able to tune in from the convenience of home to watch the chief’s State of the Nation address, Cherokee art show, Miss Cherokee competition, demonstrations of traditional games and more. 

Larger events, such as the annual parade, fishing derby, powwow, softball tournament and arts and crafts food and vendor markets, will be held regularly next year.

This year’s holiday theme is “We the People of the Cherokee Nation: Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty.”

In this year’s design, the Cherokee Constitution is shown in the background with the first sentence, “We, the people of the Cherokee Nation.”

At top are seven stars to represent the seven clans. The one star directly below symbolizes the appointed Cherokee Nation delegate to Congress, which is a treaty right between the Cherokee Nation and United States government. 

The 38 leaves on the sides represent the federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma with two branches representing the partnership the tribes play with the state of Oklahoma. The middle leaf represents good medicine as the partners negotiate a gaming compact. 

The two sides at the medicine represent the Five Tribes. At the center is the hawk, a symbol of stately leadership like that of the principal chief and deputy chief in their first year in office. The hawk holds in protection the Seal of the Cherokee Nation, and encompassed in the wings is the hard-working tribal government and its employees. In the tail are 42 feathers, representative of the years the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which protects native and Cherokee children and keeps them with their tribe, has been upheld. The three outer rings represent the three branches of Cherokee Nation government, working to defend the Cherokee Nation and its sovereign right to self-govern.

“This Cherokee national holiday will be unlike any we’ve ever had, and while some events won’t be open to the public so that we can maintain safety here in the Cherokee Nation, it does allow citizens across the globe to watch an array of events that are traditional to our Cherokee people and plan their trip to Tahlequah in 2021,” Cherokee national holiday coordinator Austin Patton said.

The Cherokee national holiday commemorates the signing of the Cherokee Nation Constitution in 1839, which re-established the tribe’s government in Indian Territory after forced removal from the Cherokees’ original homelands in the Southeast.

A full list of virtual events will be posted soon. Check https://holiday.cherokee.org for updates. For questions about the holiday, call Patton at (918) 822-2427.

KXMX News Staff 

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Friday, June 26, 2020

Vian Man Sought After Break-In

An arrest warrant was issued June 19 for a Vian man who allegedly broke into a home in north of Sallisaw.

Gene Douglas Fleet, 51, was charged with two felonies: second-degree burglary and embezzlement. The burglary charge is punishable by up to seven years in prison, while the penalty for embezzling is up to eight years in the State Penitentiary, a fine of up to $10,000 and restitution.

According to a police report, on June 9, a Sequoyah County Sheriff’s deputy was dispatched to a residence near Pinhook Corner regarding trespassing. A neighbor contacted the sheriff’s office saying he had seen and heard people next door to him, and he verified with the homeowner that no one had permission to be on the property.

When the deputy arrived, he noticed that the gate to the property had been taken off the hinge and propped back up to appear that it was closed. The deputy also saw tire tracks through the tall grass going up the driveway.

The deputy then spoke with the reporting party who informed him that he could still hear people next door and that it sounded as if they were stuck.

The deputy then parked at the end of the driveway in plain view to prevent a pursuit. While waiting, a dark-colored Ford Quad Cab pickup with several items visible in the bed came up the driveway. The truck was about 20 yards from the gate when the driver spotted the deputy. The driver put the truck in reverse and started to back down the driveway at a high speed.

The tall grass and mud in the area left the deputy unable to drive on the driveway. Another deputy then followed the tire tracks back to the main residence, a barn-style apartment with a shop. The two deputies eventually lost the tracks, then proceeded on foot.

Deputies spotted the suspect vehicle on a ridge and once they cleared the vehicle and checked the immediate area they saw a foot trail leading from the vehicle north to northwest. Other units also arrived in the area and began to search.

While at the vehicle, deputies saw several items believed stolen from the property, including electronic items.

Deputies later discovered a woman lying in the tree line. She gave them the name Fleet and said she was under the impression she was helping Fleet move property from a family member’s residence back to his home. She was booked in to the Sequoyah County Jail without incident.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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County Adds Three More Cases; Details on Contact Tracing

Sequoyah County recorded three new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 for Friday, June 26 bringing the county total to 31. Ten of the 31 cases are still considered active. The total number of deaths remains at 3.

With more and more coronavirus cases popping up in the Sooner State, it’s important to be aware of the vital role contract tracers play in controlling the illness. If you may have been exposed to COVID-19, you will likely get a call from one of these tracers. Here is some information:

What is Contact Tracing?

*Contact tracing is a disease control measure that has been employed by local and state health departments for decades. It is a key strategy in breaking the chain of transmission of a highly contagious disease and involves health department efforts to identify, test and isolate people with suspected or confirmed infection.

*Contact tracers are trained staff members who call individuals diagnosed with a contagious disease to determine who they may have been in contact with and potentially exposed. Since COVID-19 is highly contagious, it is crucially important to identify those who have been exposed by coming into contact with an infected person.

*The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has recently expanded contact tracing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. This disease poses tremendous challenges to containment since there is not yet a vaccine and it can be spread by people without symptoms or who do not look or feel sick.

*There are approximately 700 trained contact tracers currently working active cases in Oklahoma.
How Contact Tracing Works

*A contact tracing investigation is conducted with every individual who has received a positive COVID-19 test result, whether they were tested by the state or through a private care provider.

*When a person tests positive for COVID-19, they can expect a phone call from their local county health department or an OSDH representative, usually within 48 hours. 

*A legitimate contact tracer will never ask for personal details such as a Social Security number, banking information or credit card number. Those who receive a contact tracing call and want to verify it is from the health department are advised to call the state’s coronavirus hotline at 211 with the first and last name of the contact tracer.

*Contact tracers ask for information including date of birth, address and about any additional occupants in the home who may also be at risk of exposure. Contact tracers work with a patient to help them identify whom they have had close contact during the time they may have been infectious.

*Contact tracers then inform these individuals (a patient’s contacts) of their potential exposure as rapidly and sensitively as possible. To protect patient privacy, contacts are only informed that they may have been in close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19. They are not told the identity of the patient.
*Contacts are provided with education, information and support to understand their risk. Contacts are informed on how monitor themselves for illness and how to curtail the possibility that of spreading the infection to others, even if they are not experiencing symptoms.

*Contacts are encouraged to get tested as well as quarantine at home and maintain social distance (at least 6 feet) from others in the home until 14 days after their last exposure, in case they also become ill. They should monitor themselves by checking their temperature twice daily and watching for cough or shortness of breath.

*Contacts who develop symptoms should promptly isolate themselves and notify public health staff. They should be promptly tested and evaluated for infection and for the need for medical care.

Please continue to practice social distancing and safety protocols.

KXMX News Staff 

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Olsen, Others Discuss Pending Legislation

State Rep. Jim Olsen addresses chamber members 
while chamber president Jamie Henson looks on.

Oklahoma House Rep. Jim Olsen and representatives of two United States legislators were on hand Wednesday to discuss pending legislation at the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce’s June membership luncheon.

Olsen discussed measures the state legislature worked on in the most recent session, which he said went well despite the impact of the coronavirus.

Olsen said pending measures focus on criminal justice, education, judiciary, pro-life legislation and more.

The lawmaker also discussed State Question 802, which voters will decide on June 30. The measure adds a new article to the Oklahoma Constitution that would expand Oklahoma’s Medicaid program to include certain low-income adults between the ages of 18 and 65 whose income does not exceed 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Sallisaw Mayor Ernie Martens urged those in the audience to approve Question 802, saying “If you want to take care of your local hospitals, I suggest you vote for it,” he said.

Leasha Pilcher, the field representative for U.S. Rep. Mark Wayne Mullins, said Mullins is fully focused on the passage of the Justice Act, a measure that has the backing of President Donald Trump.

The legislation provides long-term solutions focused on police reform, accountability and transparency, while also promoting efforts to find solutions to systemic issues affecting people of color such as education and health disparities.

Caleb Cochran, a representative of U.S. Sen. James Lankford, also talked about the Justice Act. Cochran said it is vital to “keep the conversation going” about law enforcement reform and why it is necessary.

The guest speakers also discussed how the coronavirus pandemic has affected their work. “Social distancing and masks are still necessary. You can still support your community, just use common sense to do it,” Cochran said.

Martens took to the podium to give an update on how the city is doing amid the virus pandemic.

“This has been a tough year for all of us,” he said, but noted that case numbers in Sequoyah County are still fairly low compared with other areas.

Martens said he owed a big thank you to all the groups and entities that stepped up to distribute food during this time. He cited the Cherokee Nation, Catholic Charities, First Assembly of God in Sallisaw and other agencies for their determination to take care of area residents. “It says a lot for the generosity of our community,” he said.

Martens also said he is “very proud” of the way the city has bounced back from the shutdowns that occurred when the virus first began hitting close to home. He said city officials “expected doom and gloom” when sales tax figures were released, but he said they were surprised to find the numbers are up 6.2 percent, $365,000 higher than at this time in 2019. The hotel-motel tax and sales tax are also higher, but Martens said it is the tax from medical marijuana purchases that offered the biggest surprise. “By December we could have $200,000 (from the tax) that we didn’t know we would have.”

The mayor also discussed the ongoing improvements at Stanley W. Tubbs Memorial Library, including the removal of sweet gum trees, making the doors accessible according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a brand-new sculpture and more. He said the city is also working on improvements to the wastewater treatment plant, the city’s walking trail is now complete with the exception of landscaping. Also Little League and T-ball tournaments are scheduled at the Sports Complex.

Aviagen is planning another renovation, Martens said, and groundbreaking on the new Veterans Center is expected in late summer or early fall.

Chamber President Jaime Henson began the noon meeting by thanking Sonic for providing the meal and People Inc. for the use of its conference center. She also reminded those in attendance that there will be no Chamber membership luncheon in July.

The Sallisaw Police Department was recognized 
as the chamber member of the month. Accepting the award from Pres. Jaime Henson 
are from left Cpt. John Weber, Chief Terry Franklin, and Capt. Beau Gabbert.

Chamber Executive Director Marty Green gave a brief Census update as well. He said the number of responses to the Census in Sallisaw is still extremely low. “We stand to lose thousands of dollars in this community" if residents do not complete and turn in their census, he stated.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Area Towns Getting Set for Fireworks Shows

Independence Day is just around the corner and area towns are hard at work getting ready to celebrate the holiday with a bang.

The Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce is hosting its July 4th fireworks on Sunday, July 5. The show will begin at dusk (about 9-9:15 p.m.) at the Sallisaw High School campus.

There will also be several activities going on before the fireworks, from about 7-9 p.m.

Marty Green, the chamber’s executive director, said the chamber is counting on those in attendance to be responsible regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guests are invited to bring lawn chairs, sit in their cars or bring blankets to sit on the ground, Green said.

The Mix 105.1 will provide music at the event.

Vian’s Fireworks Extravaganza is set for Friday, July 3, at St. John Stadium. 

Suzanne Sullivan of Vian Community Foundation said that because of COVID-19, organizers will not be presenting their annual Favorite Son and Favorite Daughter awards this year.

“We are going to ask that as much as possible you maintain social distancing. If you decide to watch the show inside the field, we strongly recommend you not coming until close to time for the show, which will begin at 9:45 p.m., and that you wear some type of mask,” Sullivan said, adding, “Please help us protect our community even as we celebrate together!”

Organizers are also getting ready for the 4th of July at Lake Tenkiller.

The fireworks show will be at the south end (the dam area) and will be shot from the lagoon at Tenkiller State Park. There will be great visibility from the Corps overlook, inside the park area, Pine Cove area and by Strayhorn Island, Strayhorn area and Big Daddy’s.

The Gore Police Department has announced that fireworks will be allowed inside city limits between June 15 and July 6 between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. No fireworks will be allowed on city property and no fireworks should be aimed directly toward vehicles or homes. 

All area residents are urged to use fireworks with caution and follow these safety tips:

*Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
*A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
*Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. 
*Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
*Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
*Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles.
*Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
*Always have a bucket of water and water hose nearby.
*Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them into metal or glass containers.
*Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
*Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and placing them in a metal trash can, away from any building or combustible materials, until the next day.

Citing concerns about the coronavirus, the towns of Roland and Muldrow have decided to cancel their 4th of July fireworks plans this year, but in Muldrow, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8384 will offer food and fireworks on the evening of Saturday, July 4.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Muldrow Man Sought After Damaging Home

An arrest warrant was issued June 19 against a Muldrow man accused of damaging property.

Brandin Short, 22, was charged with malicious injury to property (over $1,000), a felony that is punishable by up to two years in the State Pentitentiary, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

On June 2, a Muldrow police officer spoke with Clyde Brasier, who lives in a rent house owned by Roger Strong. Brasier told the officer that his girlfriend’s son, Short, came over and had the key to his mother’s car and would not give it back after she loaned it to him so he could go to the doctor.

Short came back to the residence, shouting and cussing, saying that either Brasier had to move out or Short’s mother had to move out.

Short allegedly became angry, shoving a door into the wall several times. He also ripped two doors off the facing and threw them outside. He then punched a hole in the kitchen wall, broke a window out of the back door and tore the screen door off as well.

Short’s mother again asked for the key and he got in her face, nose to nose, and said no. He also stated that he would take the car to the bottoms and burn it.

Short finally left the home and Brasier called the police. They were hesitant to file charges, but when they learned the home was a rental and belonged to Roger Strong, they agreed to have him come to the home to assess the damage, which he said amounted to nearly $2,000. Strong said he would like to prosecute Short and have him removed from the residence.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Roland Public Pool Closed Temporarily

The Roland Public Pool will be closed until further notice. 

The Town of Roland’s administrator Monty Lenington said Wednesday that problems surfaced shortly after the pool opened for the season. The water became cloudy, which prompted the pool company to perform tests on the water to determine if it was safe.

Though the tests showed normal levels of chlorine and pH levels were fine, Lenington said, the company recommended the town drain the pool, which takes about a day and a half, and crews will then pressure wash the entire pool and refill it.

Lenington urged residents to be patient as the work continues. When the pool reopens, that information will be posted on the town’s website.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Seven Indicted on Drug Charges

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma announced today that seven defendants, primarily residents of Pittsburg, LeFlore, and Sequoyah Counties, have been indicted for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine in the Eastern District of Oklahoma and elsewhere. Drug Conspiracy is punishable by not less than 10 years imprisonment, and up to a $10,000,000 fine or both. The defendants were indicted on June 9, 2020. A coordinated law enforcement operation to arrest the defendants charged in the indictment began on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. A copy of the full indictment can be found online at https://go.usa.gov/xwfmV

Defendants indicted are Heath Lloyd Taylor, age 41, of McAlester, Oklahoma; Kyle Lee Hamby, age 29, of McAlester, Oklahoma; Marlene Annette Garcia aka Marlene Annette Moss, age 38, of Poteau, Oklahoma; Edward Charles Sofsky, age 28, of Poteau, Oklahoma; Rhanda Danielle Chautee Billy aka Rhonda Billy, age 28, of Wister, Oklahoma; Marty Ray Campbell, age 45, of Muldrow, Oklahoma; and Kevin Leon King, age 36, of Muldrow, Oklahoma. 

The charges arose from a joint investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), and the Sequoyah County Sheriff’s Office. Numerous other agencies played important roles, including HSI task force members from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office, and the Tulsa Police Department, and DEA McAlester HIDTA Task Force members, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the DA District 18 Drug Task Force. The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, Poteau Police Department, DA District 16 Drug Task Force, Arkoma Police Department, LeFlore County Sheriff’s Office, and Choctaw Nation Tribal Police also assisted.

Sheriff Lane said, "Our investigators have worked tirelessly for about eight months on this drug trafficking organization. As always, I am very proud of the work our team has done. Crime and drug trafficking doesn't stop at the county line. Fortunately we have two investigators assigned to Homeland Security and one assigned to the U.S. Marshals. This allows us to investigate and follow these large-scale drug traffickers into other areas of the state." Further arrests are expected as a result of this investigation.

This case is part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. The OCDETF program is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s drug supply reduction strategy. OCDETF was established to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illicit drug supply.

“For years Oklahoma has been plagued by the death and destruction that methamphetamine leaves in its wake. Drug cartels and dealers profit while addicts, their families, communities, and society respond to the tragic outcomes,” said United States Attorney Brian J. Kuester. “Over the last several months numerous federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies joined forces to strike back against a drug trafficking organization whose members are responsible for delivering large quantities of methamphetamine to rural Oklahoma and committing acts of violence to perpetuate their drug trafficking operations. The men and women of those agencies worked tirelessly alongside each other and with members of the United States Attorney’s Office to get to this phase of the investigation. I commend and thank all those agencies that participated.”

“The prosecution of members of this criminal organization is a victory for our communities not only because of the threat they pose to public safety but also the hateful ideology they believe in,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Dallas. “HSI will continue to aggressively use its ample authority, and pool its expertise and resources with our law enforcement partners to take ruthless drug traffickers and organized criminals off our streets.”

“If you choose to traffic methamphetamine in Oklahoma, you will be caught and held to justice,” stated Eduardo A. Chavez, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Dallas Field Division. “Through our strong partnerships with area law enforcement and with the support of the Texoma High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, the tireless hours spent by our agents, officers, investigators and analysts has made the streets of our hometowns safer.”

A grand jury Indictment does not constitute evidence of guilt. A grand jury Indictment is a method of bringing formal charges against the defendant. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and may not be found guilty unless evidence establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

KXMX News Staff 

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Sallisaw Man Charged with Drug Possession

A Sallisaw man’s bond was set at $7,500 for the unlawful possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute, a felony.

James Dean Johnson, 60, faces up to five years in the Department of Corrections and a fine of up to $20,000 on that charge. He also faces up to a year in prison on a charge of attempting to elude a police officer, a misdemeanor.

On June 14, a Sequoyah County Sheriff’s deputy was on patrol when he spotted a gray Chevrolet Equinox that turned south on 4640 Road and accelerated, going around a white SUV and traveling so fast that when it crossed the railroad tracks all four tires left the pavement. The deputy initiated a traffic stop.

After a short pursuit, the driver pulled over. When the driver exited the vehicle, under his right leg were multiple clear, plastic bags, which contained an off-white crystal-like substance. The driver, Johnson, was arrested.

A search of the Equinox turned up six of the plastic bags, all holding different amounts of the drug, which field-tested positive for methamphetamine.

Johnson was transported to the Sequoyah County Jail.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Early Voting Begins Thursday

Voters will go to the polls Tuesday for the June 30 Primary/Board of Education Election, Sequoyah County Election Board Secretary Cindy Osborn said today.

Please keep the following information and tips in mind as the election approaches.

*Early voting will be available at the County Election Board office from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, June 25, and Friday, June 26. Early voting will also be available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 27. 

*Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Lines are possible at peak voting times. Wait times will likely be shortest at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Anyone in line to vote at 7 p.m. will be allowed to cast a ballot.

*Anyone who needs to look up their polling place, verify their registration information or view a sample ballot can do so online. The Online Voter Tool can be accessed on the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website: www.elections.ok.gov. Those who vote by mail can also check the status of their ballot using the Online Voter Tool. Sample ballots are also available at the County Election Board office.

*Oklahoma law requires every voter who votes in person at the precinct polling place or during early voting at the County Election Board to show proof of identity before receiving a ballot. There are three ways for voters to prove their identity under the law (only one proof of identity is required): Show a valid photo ID issued by federal, state or tribal government; or show the free voter identification card issued to every voter by the County Election Board; or sign an affidavit and vote a provisional ballot. (If the information on the affidavit matches official voter registration records, the ballot will be counted after Election Day.)

*Physically disabled voters who cannot enter the polling place, need help marking their ballots, blind or visually disabled voters and illiterate voters may be assisted by a person the voter chooses. In all cases, a person providing such assistance may not be the voter’s employer or an agent of the employer or an officer or agent of the voter’s union. A person providing assistance also must swear or affirm that the voter’s ballots will be marked in accordance with the voter’s wishes. Alternatively, all blind, visually impaired and physically disabled voters in Sequoyah County may use the audio-tactile interface (ATI), a feature offered on all Oklahoma voting devices, to vote privately and independently, either at Sequoyah County Election Board during early voting or at their assigned polling place on election day.

*Voters who have moved since the last election, but who have not transferred their voter registration to their new address, may do so on Election Day by going to vote at the polling place where their registration has been in the past. While voting, they may fill out a form instructing the County Election Board to transfer their registration to the new address before the next election.

*Those who became physically incapacitated after 5 p.m. June 23 still can request an emergency absentee ballot. Those who might qualify for an emergency absentee ballot should contact the County Election Board office at (918) 775-2614 as soon as possible for more information.

*Any violation of election law will be reported to the proper law enforcement authorities. Electioneering is not allowed within 300 feet of a ballot box. It is also unlawful to remove a ballot from the polling location, possess intoxicating liquors within half a mile of a polling place or to disclose how you voted while within the election enclosure.

For additional election-related information, visit: www.elections.ok.gov.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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