Bethany Officers Cleared, Criticized In Deadly February Shooting

Wednesday, April 26th 2017, 3:39 pm
By: Grant Hermes

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater did not mince his words in his report following a fatal shooting in Bethany earlier this year. While he cleared officers of wrongdoing, he said they could have prevented the shooting death of James McMullen.

According to the report, five Bethany Officers, including a rookie officers and two supervising officers, went McMullen’s home after an alleged assault was reported by an alleged victim. McMullen answered the door holding a gun. After multiple orders to drop his weapon went ignored, officers felt threatened enough to open fire.

Prater acknowledged the officers needed to make split second decisions during the incident but said, "tactical decisions made by the officers increased the likelihood that a shooting would occur", saying the officers had the chance to take cover or retreat behind a nearby brick structure.

Bethany Police Chief Phil Cole disagrees. He said over the phone Wednesday, any loss of life is a tragedy but, "he forced the violence... not my officers."

Chief Cole also said, any attempt to retreat could have exposed his officers to deadly gun fire, something legal analysts say may or may not have been the case.

“Retreat and de-escalation depending on the situation. It's never a one size fits all model. Here what Prater's report indicates and I think it's exactly right, here you had an officer in a position where he could have deescalated, he could have backed off an in fact exposed himself to less danger,” said OK-ACLU Legal Director Brady Henderson.

In the end, it's increased training that experts like Henderson recommend for departments across the state, bringing in recent police shootings like the killing of Terrence Crutcher in by a Tulsa police officer.

“The officers were in total control of the situation but they didn't necessarily act like it” Henderson said.