Supporters of an Oklahoma City officer on trial for second-degree murder said on Thursday, Sergeant Keith Sweeney made a deadly mistake and should not do prison time.
Sweeney was involved in a deadly officer-involved shooting in 2017 where he killed an unarmed man.
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Oklahoma City’s FOP president and Sweeney’s family sat through the first day of testimony on Thursday to support the officer on trial.
“This is the first time we’ve had an officer charged with a crime like this in decades,” said John George, OKC FOP President. “If ever that I’m aware of.”
The court heard from Sergeant Erik Howell, he was one of two officers first on scene to 29-year-old Dustin Pigeon’s 911 suicide call. He had been drinking and told dispatchers, “I’m thinking about committing suicide, I might have HIV.”
Howell testified that Pigeon was holding a bottle of lighter fluid and was flicking a lighter. Howell said he and the other officer did not have their pistols drawn.
Moments later, Sweeney showed up and fired at Pigeon five times, shooting him once through the heart.
“There was a mistake made in the perception of the threat,” said George. “Sergeant Sweeney believed in that moment of time he had had a knife, and Mr. Pigeon was about to charge him and that’s why he fired.”
Sweeney’s attorney told jurors the officer thought one of the other officers was holding a rifle, but it turned out to be a less-lethal bean bag gun. The attorney said Sweeney perceived it to be a “deadly force” situation.
“The mistake was that he perceived a threat,” said George. “That ultimately, was not there.”
Pigeon died at the scene. His family watched as prosecutors played in the courtroom the police body camera footage of their loved one’s final moments.
Testimony will resume on Friday.