Bodycam footage showing what happened during a Dec. 31, 2020, shooting of a man by a police officer was obtained this week by the McAlester News-Capital after two requests for the video.
Footage shows Nicholas Halkias, 40, was shot by McAlester Police officer Richard Bedford after numerous commands to drop a knife were ignored by Halkias while he advanced towards the officer.
The footage was obtained through an Oklahoma Open Records Act request that was fulfilled this week after a second record request had to be submitted due to the first one being denied in January.
McAlester Police Chief Kevin Hearod told the News-Capital at the time that Bedford’s body camera was given directly to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation after the incident so there was no chance of data being lost.
Oklahoma state law exempts OSBI from the Oklahoma Open Records Act, stating that all records relating to any investigation being conducted by the bureau “shall be confidential and shall not be open to the public.”
The Oklahoma Open Records Act states law enforcement agencies “shall make available for public inspection and copying” records which includes audio and video recordings from recording equipment attached to law enforcement vehicles and/or the person of a law enforcement officer.
District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan released a statement justifying the shooting on Jan. 25.
“Mr. Halkias made several attempts to commit suicide and escalated his behavior to the point that his girlfriend contacted 911 and requested assistance,” Sullivan said in a letter to Hearod.
“Officer Bedford and others arrived and confronted Mr. Halkias and attempted to assist,” Sullivan continued. “Mr. Halkias, who was brandishing a knife, refused the help and continued to charge toward Officer Bedford with knife in hand, all the while placing himself, Officer Bedford, other responding officers and the public at risk,” Sullivan said.
“Officer Bedford made the difficult decision to fire his weapon on Mr. Halkias after numerous attempts to deescalate the situation without gunfire; unfortunately, Mr. Halkias’ behavior made that impossible,” said Sullivan.
A second open records request for the footage and radio call logs was filed by the News-Capital on Jan. 26. McAlester City Clerk Cora Middleton said in a Feb. 24 email the request was on the list and that she was working through the stack.
“The audio and video take me so much longer than they did our paralegal,” Middleton wrote.
The 16:55 minutes-long video begins with Bedford searching the area for Halkias.
Bedford finds Halkias three minutes into the video near the intersection of North Main Street and West Ottawa Avenue by the railroad tracks.
The officer can be heard asking Halkias what he has in his hand with Halkias responding “a knife.”
Bedford draws his weapon and Halkias can be seen approaching the officer. The officer is heard telling the man six times to drop the knife before firing four shots toward Halkias. A report states Halkias had a single gunshot to his thigh after the shots were fired.
The video shows Halkias falling to the ground and attempting to get up and run toward Bedford again, before falling and crawling a short distance toward the officer.
After a short period of time, another officer arrives and tells Bedford that Halkias is still holding the knife before Halkias is seen stabbing himself in the neck.
When two officers attempt to take Halkias into custody, a struggle begins and Bedford is seen running up and placing his weapon on Halkias’ neck while telling the man to put the knife down.
Throughout the struggle, Halkias can be heard asking Bedford to kill him, with officers telling the man that what he was doing was “not worth it” and that they wanted to help him.
Officers were able to get the knife away from Halkias and restrained him before allowing waiting medics from the McAlester Fire Department to treat the man.
The video later shows Halkias struggle while in the gurney. He had to be strapped down and handcuffed to the gurney before being transported to the McAlester Regional Health Center from where, according to police, he was later flown by medical helicopter to a Tulsa hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound and his self-inflicted injuries.
Halkias was charged with felony assault with a dangerous weapon for the incident and was later released from the Pittsburg County Jail and placed on house arrest, court records state.
Contact Derrick James at email@example.com