Coroner's reports conflict, Whetsel says

Wednesday, August 13th 2008, 11:30 pm
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Sheriff John Whetsel said Wednesday he was surprised the state medical examiner ruled the 2007 death of an inmate a homicide.

Christopher Beckman died May 2007 after allegedly struggling with detention officers inside the Oklahoma County Jail. Officials initially said the inmate's death was caused by injuries sustained during a seizure.

Whetsel said the initial information he received from the M.E.'s office conflicted with the final report released in June.

"The Medical Examiner told us after their initial investigation that there was no trauma," Whetsel said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the M.E.'s office said it never issued an initial report or information on Beckman's death. They claimed only the final report was released in June and ruled the death a homicide, but Whetsel insists he was informed by another document.

"We have that documented," Whetsel said. "We were going by what the Medical Examiner told our investigators immediately after this event occurred."

Ed Abel is representing the Beckman family in a civil lawsuit against the Oklahoma County Jail.

"If there is such a report, we have not seen it," Abel said. "We weren't allowed to even talk to the Medical Examiner's office about it until they completed their report."

In September, a federal grand jury is scheduled to hear testimony about Beckman's death.

The Oklahoma County Jail has also been criticized for housing, safety and violation of constitutional rights of inmates.

Whetsel said most of the issues were corrected and he hopes the investigation into Beckman's death reveals answers.

"My only hope is that they find that truth about what did or did not happen," Whetsel said.

Whetsel called both the FBI and OSBI to investigate the case. No arrests have been made regarding Beckman's death.