District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan determined Thursday after a nearly three-month investigation that a July 17 trooper-involved shooting was justified.
"After reviewing all the investigative reports, witness interviews and reviewing all available video regarding the incident, I have determined that no criminal charges against the OHP Troopers are necessary or proper," said Sullivan. "Mark Schoggins had more than 10 opportunities to prevent this tragedy from occurring and refused every time; each time he did so, he put the officers and public at risk."
Schoggins, 35, was shot and killed by the troopers following a high-speed pursuit, according to court documents. Schoggins was accused of stealing two bottles of vodka from a local liquor store before he was initially stopped by a McAlester police officer and then fled.
Police pursued Schoggins south of McAlester before OHP took the lead as the chase returned to city limits. The pursuit ended at South Third Street and South Avenue in McAlester, with OHP troopers fatally shooting Schoggins.
Sullivan said after Schoggins struck troopers in their vehicles with his large SUV, he attempted to run over Trooper Garet Gray and struck Gray's body before Gray and Trooper James McKee opened fire on Schoggins.
"It is my conclusion that this was an appropriate use of lethal force and no charges should be filed," Sullivan said.
Sullivan listed the key elements behind his decision.
After fleeing from McAlester Police Officer Chuck Sutterfield from the area of Hardy Springs Road and U.S. Highway 69, Schoggins sped onto a the frontage road and weaving in and out of traffic. Sullivan said Sutterfield had a responsibility for the safety of the motorists and citizens to stop Schoggins.
Schoggins continued south on U.S. Highway 69 at high speeds "endangering others by dangerously weaving in and out of the southbound traffic," Sullivan wrote. Sutterfield requested assistance from the Savanna Police Department, Kiowa Police Department, and OHP in the pursuit.
As the pursuit traveled past OHP Troop D headquarters, Troopers Gray, McKee, Brad Wilson, and Keith Robertson joined the pursuit.
Schoggins avoided stop sticks a Savanna Police officer placed ahead of the pursuit by turning to travel north in the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 69, Sullivan wrote. Sullivan said Schoggins also "attempted to hit" a trooper.
McKee then unsuccessfully attempted to stop Schoggins with a Tactical Vehicle Intervention, Sullivan wrote.
MPD Officer Kyle Sharp attempted to deploy stop sticks near the U.S. Highway 69/Business 69 interchange, but Schoggins "again went against the flow of traffic" and continued on Business 69/South Main Street "going over 100 mph," according to Sullivan.
Sullivan noted the pursuit continued past 7 p.m. on a Wednesday, "a night where many families attend mid-week church activities with their small children, churches Mr. Schoggins repeatedly sped by, showing no concern for the safety of others."
Schoggins then turned onto South Street just blocks from a populated park where softball games were underway, Sullivan wrote.
After Gray successfully performed a TVI near South Second Street, Schoggins rammed into the back of Gray's unit and struck a parked vehicle before he backed up and struck another trooper's unit, Sullivan wrote.
Sullivan wrote Wilson and Gray commanded Schoggins get out of the stopped vehicle, but Schoggins "reached into his passenger seat, took a drink of the vodka and slammed on the gas" before striking Gray with an open door on the vehicle.
Gray and McKee began to fire their weapons at Schoggins — which Sullivan wrote "was in response to a suspect's assault and battery with a deadly weapon, his vehicle."
Officers removed Schoggins from the vehicle when it stopped near the intersection of South Third Street and South Street "and began life-saving efforts" until EMS arrived, Sullivan wrote. Schoggins was transported to McAlester Regional Health Center, where he was pronounced dead, Sullivan wrote.
"It is clear from his actions that Mr. Schoggins attempted to harm the officers and put the public at great risk of harm," Sullivan said. "Time and time again, he could have stopped his actions but he refused to do so and kept escalating the situation. The officers had no other alternative way to prevent Mr. Schoggins from continuing his destructive path and thus were justified in their use of lethal force in this instance."
The decision was made days before a scheduled Oct. 2 hearing regarding Sullivan’s motion to quash separate open records requests made the day after the incident by the McAlester News-Capital and local-attorney Brecken Wagner.
Sullivan filed a motion to quash on July 30 claiming that the entirety of the videos requested were redactable under state law and asked for the court to issue an order prohibiting the release of any video footage during the investigation.
Pittsburg County District Judge Mike Hogan granted Sullivan’s motion 52 days after it was filed “after no response” was filed against the motion.
Wagner then filed a motion asking the court set aside the order granting the state’s motion to quash due to lack of service to either of the requesting parties. The motion also requested a leave of 20 days to file an objection to Sullivan’s motion and any other relief entitled as matter of law.
Oklahoma Press Association Executive Vice President Mark Thomas told the News-Capital earlier this month that the Oklahoma Open Records Act was not followed.
“The law clearly says that if a person wants to keep things confidential because they think it will jeopardize a right to a fair trial, that the court has to have a hearing,” Thomas said.
He also agreed that both the News-Capital and Wagner should have been served before Hogan made his decision.
An attorney for Schoggins' father, Mark Schoggins, filed on Sept. 19 a motion to intervene, asking for the motion to quash to be denied and the court to order immediate release of video and audio of the shooting.
After Wagner’s motion was filed, Hogan set Oct. 2 as the date for argument over whether to set aside the decision to grant Sullivan’s motion.
Sullivan filed a motion on Wednesday asking Hogan to dismiss the motion to quash open records request.
Court documents show Sullivan made a similar motion in 2017 following an officer-involved shooting in Kiowa where 50-year-old Marvin Washington was shot and killed by a Kiowa Police Officer. The video was released by Sullivan after the shooting was found to be justified. No known challenge was made to the 2017 motion.
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