Are prosecutors getting serious about punishing out-of-control cops? It would seem so. Oklahoma newspaper The Tulsa World reports prosecutors have filed charges against an Owasso police officer who was videotaped striking a suspect with a gun butt.
According to The Tulsa World, Nowata County prosecutors charged Lt. Michael Dwain Denton with assault and battery with a deadly weapon, and reckless conduct with a firearm.
Denton had been involved in a high-speed pursuit of Cody Mathews. Mathews stopped his truck in a field and was surrounded by police officers. Denton then used his shotgun to break the driver’s side window. Matthews was dragged out of his car and struck several times with the butt of Denton’s shotgun.
Kevin Buchanan, district attorney for Nowata and Washington counties, said Denton violated the Owasso Police Department’s use-of-force policy.
“Essentially, striking anybody in the head with a hard object is considered deadly force,” Buchanan said in an interview with The Tulsa World. “And you can only use deadly force in a circumstance where it’s justified.”
Buchanan also said the videotape showed that Matthews had surrendered, but Denton continued to strike him.
“It is clear that his hands are empty and he is putting them over his head in a defensive manner, and while another officer has got him on the ground on his stomach and one arm under control, [Denton] begins striking him over the head with the gun butt,” Buchanan said.
The Owasso Police Department is conducting an investigation into the incident to see if Denton violated department policy. In the meantime, he has been suspended with pay. Deputy Police Chief Jason Woodruff said the investigation could lead to Denton being fired.
Denton has a troubled history with the department. He was fired in 2011 for violating the department’s use-of-force policy in an incident that was also captured on video tape. However, an arbitrator recommended his reinstatement. The city of Owasso paid Denton more than $366,000 related to the firing.
Patrick Henry, Denton’s attorney, told , that his client “didn’t commit a crime.”
“We will respond to the charges. I’m pretty confident that a jury will acquit him,” Hunt said.