DA: October deputy-involved fatal shooting justified

DERRICK JAMES | Staff file photo

Officers investigate the scene of an Oct.11 deputy-involved fatal shooting near Pittsburg. 

A district attorney determined an October deputy-involved fatal shooting was justified despite no video of the incident.

Sayven Rowland, 19, was fatally shot and killed by a Pittsburg County Sheriff's Deputy on Oct. 11 after leading deputies on a brief pursuit on a four-wheeler before crashing out and eventually attempting to pull a weapon on deputies, according to law enforcement officials.

District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan on Tuesday determined the shooting was justified after reviewing reports from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

When asked if the lack of video evidence hindered the investigation in anyway, Sullivan said the evidence was clear without video.

“Video would have been nice,” Sullivan said. “But the evidence was clear from the interviews; it was clear from the scene reconstruction that OSBI did; it was clear from the investigation and the reports.”

Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris said no video of the shooting was available because the department can't afford body cams or dash cams. He said the department was denied two grants to obtain the equipment. 

Morris said deputies were doing extra patrol in the Pittsburg area on Oct. 11 due to complaints of all-terrain vehicles driving erratic. He added the ATVs were possibly being used to help commit burglaries and theft.

According to Sullivan, Rowland drove an ATV past PCSO Reserve Deputy Alan Martin’s patrol car and ignored orders to stop. Martin recognized Rowland as an individual that ran from him a few weeks prior on an ATV, Sullivan said.

Martin observed a rifle stock visible on the four-wheeler Rowland was operating and began to pursue Rowland before requesting PCSO Sgt. Cody Vaughn to joined the pursuit, according to Sullivan.

Deputies pursued Rowland before the man crashed near the intersection of West Pittsburg Road and Staples Road between Kiowa and Pittsburg.

“The deputies immediately stopped their vehicles and exited their units to check on Rowland,” Sullivan said. “Upon locating Rowland on the side of the road, the deputies commanded Rowland to show his hands for officer safety.”

When Rowland failed to comply, Martin fired a round of a “pepper spray like gel” that struck Rowland in the head “and did not disable him as anticipated,” according to Sullivan. Rowland was struck a second time in the head with the gel and he continued to refuse to show his hands to deputies.

While Martin attempted to reload his pepper ball gun, Vaughn continued with lethal cover and ordered Rowland to show his hands when Rowland “reached down to his waistline and began to retrieve what Deputy Vaughn recognized immediately as the magazine well, or handle, of a pistol,” according to Sullivan.

The district attorney said Vaughn fired “four shots at center mass” at Rowland after the trigger guard of the pistol became visible out of Rowland’s pants.

Vaughn called into dispatch at 7:10 p.m. with “shots fired” and to start medics, according to PCSO’s radio log obtained by the News-Capital.

Audio recordings obtained through Broadcastify state McAlester Fire Department medics were dispatched to the scene as Pafford EMS did not have ambulances available at the time. First responders from the Kiowa Fire Department were also dispatched to the scene, the audio recordings show.

Martin advised at 7:18 p.m. that Rowland had “multiple gunshots wounds to upper torso," was “possibly wounded from the crash” and that first aid was being administered. Rowland was later pronounced dead at the scene.

A loaded .380 Hi-point pistol was found in Rowland’s pant waistband, according to Sullivan.

“Deputies twice attempted a less than lethal means to gain compliance from an armed suspect who refused to obey their lawful commands, but when Rowland reached for his loaded firearm, deputies were justified in using lethal force,” said Sullivan.

Contact Derrick James at djames@mcalesternews.com

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