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‘I’m Down, I Can’t Breathe’: Two Former Oklahoma Officers Charged After Newly Released Video Shows They Fired 15 Rounds, Killing Man Who Was Fully Compliant with His Hands Raised

Two former cops have been charged in the 2021 police slaying of a Black man in Lawton, Oklahoma.

An administrative investigation contended both officers did not follow the department’s “well-established training protocols, policies, practices, customs or procedures” during the altercation, leading to first-degree manslaughter charges announced last week.

Robert Hinkle and Nathan Ronan’s mugshots

USA Today reports an Aug. 1 hearing has been scheduled for former Lawton officers Robert Hinkle, 30, and Nathan Ronan, 29, after District Attorney Kyle Cabelka charged them for the death of Quadry Sanders, 29.

The announcement was made on Friday, May 6.

Cabelka said in a statement, “The Comanche County District Attorney’s Office has made the determination that the shooting of Quadry Sanders was not justified.”

An investigation into the slaying, headed by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations, lasted months.

The fatal encounter began on Dec. 5, 2021, when Ronan and Hinkle responded to a 911 call where a female caller identified Sanders as a person waving a gun in someone’s house and refusing to leave.

The officers arrived at the home located at 1806 NW Lincoln Avenue, near N.W. 18th St. and N.W. Lincoln Ave.

According to authorities, the officers asked Sanders to exit the residence, but instead of coming out the front, he left from the side door. Reports say Sanders later returned to the property and came to the front where the officers were. This is when the officers shot and killed him, saying the three were in a “confrontation” prompting them to fire their weapons.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation determined the men’s actions warranted that they be fired.

Hinkle was discharged from the LPD for violating the force’s policy and procedures pertaining to “conduct and behavior, the justification to use deadly force, deadly force, and unsatisfactory performance.

Ronan was discharged for also violating policy and procedures, however, his strikes were the failure to perform “duties and responsibilities, the justification to use deadly force, deadly force, mobile and body cam video/audio (not activating bodycam footage).”

Both of the officers disobeyed LPD Rules and Regulations – Performance of Duty and City of Lawton Municipal Code – Violations of City Code.

In a statement, Lawton City Manager Michael Cleghorn said Ronan and Hinkle’s conduct was “not in conformance with the Lawton Police Department’s well-established training protocols, policies, practices, customs or procedures.”

The charges were announced after video footage of the altercation was released. The footage showed Sanders in full compliance with the orders given him by the two former cops. The footage showed Sanders was only ordered to put his hands up after he was shot four times, and officers continued to shoot him despite him obeying their commands.

The medical examiner listed Sanders’ cause of death as “multiple gunshot wounds.” A total of twelve gunshot wounds were found on his body (abdomen, groin area, legs, arm, and hand).

Audio from the officers’ bodycam hears them shouting at the Black man, “stay down” and “roll over on your stomach.”

It also captures Sanders saying, “I’m down” and “I can’t breathe.” No gun was found on Sanders.

Cabelka’s office said 15 rounds were fired at Sanders: 11 rounds by Hinkle and four rounds by Ronan.

The officers, who were fired from the department in January, were arrested. The two were released on a $25,000 bond on Friday. Should they be convicted for Sanders’ death, they both face a minimum of four years in state prison.

Sanders’ family is being represented by S. Lee Merritt, who was not satisfied with the charges, believing they should be upgraded.

On social media, he wrote, “We demand murder charges.”

Lee Merritt Instagram 2

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation determined the men’s actions warranted that they be fired. 

Hinkle was discharged from the LPD for violating the force’s policy and procedures pertaining to “conduct and behavior, the justification to use deadly force, deadly force, and unsatisfactory performance.

Ronan was discharged for also violating policy and procedures, however, his strikes were the failure to perform “duties and responsibilities, the justification to use deadly force, deadly force, mobile and body cam video/audio (not activating bodycam footage).”

Both of the officers disobeyed LPD Rules and Regulations – Performance of Duty and City of Lawton Municipal Code – Violations of City Code.

Upon seeing the evidence, Merritt said it reminded him of the George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery deaths, two cases he worked on behalf of their families. I put this video on that level,” he said.

“It really shocks the conscience when you have a chance to see Mr. Sanders literally doing whatever he could to try to save his own life, and these officers are operating with such callousness.”

Merritt later wrote on Instagram he could not “find a single redeemable factor that mitigates any aspect of this shooting.” 

Lee Merritt Instagram

“It was just murder. There was no justification,” the caption continued. “These men must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

KSWO reports Merritt will continue to push the DA’s office to upgrade the charges to murder. Merritt also plans on contacting the Attorney General and the Department of Justice.

Lawton Mayor Stan Booker said last week, “As the Mayor of Lawton, the loss of life in our community is always a difficult matter to grasp. My thoughts and prayers go out to the parents and those in our community who lost a loved one in Quadry Sanders.”

“Although this decision and the releasing of information that followed may provide clarity to this tragic incident, it does not come without impacting one’s stages of grief and mourning of a lost loved one,” he continued.

“I believe the Lawton Police Department holds itself to the highest possible standards, and I know it will continue to do so moving forward.”

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