As the trial date for an Oklahoma veteran and father charged with first-degree murder after defending his marijuana business grows closer, his family and friends have rallied to his defense.
LaRue Bratcher, a 34-year old father of five, remains behind bars nearly one year after he fatally shot a man trying to burglarize his grow shop, Premium Smoke, LLC, located in Oklahoma City.
“Someone broke into his place,” Bratcher’s uncle Derrick Neighbors said at a Saturday rally for Bratcher. “He didn’t go out looking for trouble. He was in his own place of business.” His trial is set to begin later this month, News On 6 reported.
On May 26, 2020, officers responded to a shooting at the shop, where 42-year-old Daniel Hardwick had attempted to burglarize Bratcher’s business.
“He was trying to break in when the business owner, who was inside the business at the time, apparently opened fire with a handgun, striking and killing the man who was breaking in,” Msgt. Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department said, according to KFOR.
Bratcher called 911 after shooting Hardwick. According to his family, he intended to fire warning shots but one of them struck the man, who was attempting to break in for the second night in a row. Court documents show Bratcher grabbed his gun when he heard someone at the back door and asked the stranger what he was doing before firing three shots. Bratcher told police at the time that the door was “locked and secured” when he started shooting.
Officers contacted the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to ensure Bratcher’s business was legal but discovered that his license was expired. Bratcher was arrested and 480 plants, amounting to $1,500,000 of marijuana, were confiscated.
Originally, Bratcher was booked for growing marijuana without a license and his bond was set at $5,000. Later, after the district attorney’s office reviewed the case, Bratcher was charged with second-degree murder.
Bratcher had been out on bond at the time, and officers came to his home where he was with his family.
“At that time, I had the baby who was six months old, and to have a gun pointed at her face, that was horrible,” Vicky Bratcher, LaRue’s wife, said. “It was a horrible experience.”
Bratcher’s charge was subsequently updated to first-degree murder late last year.
“It’s just me with the kids and to know that you go from one charge to the next charge and not knowing what’s going to happen,” Bratcher’s wife said. “It’s like our life is at suspense right now.” She’s been managing the store alone since the shooting last year.
Bratcher’s attorney Clay Curtis said justice will only be served if he is able to return to his family.
At the Saturday rally, Bratcher’s family called on community members to stand up for the veteran.
“When you’re in trouble, somebody has to fight for you,” Neighbors said, according to News 9. “This is my family and we’re going to fight for him.”
Demonstrators traveled through downtown Oklahoma City and protested in front of the county jail for hours.
Oklahoma City attorney Jacqui Ford explained while speaking to The Black Times that “the Oklahoma Legislature permits self-defense if the person you defended yourself against was in the process of forcefully entering, or had unlawfully entered, a home, occupied vehicle, or business,” however, prosecutors say Bratcher’s actions were felonious because his cannabis license had expired at the time.
This year, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority updated its policy to allow cardholders to apply for a new license while still using their expired one until the new one comes in the mail. A petition for Bratcher’s release has received more than 1,600 signatures.