OCCJA Executive Director Shannon Clark and Director of Law Enforcement Tim Lawson provided the Times with further information about the incident with Muscogee Nation Lighthorse Police and their interaction with jail staff on Dec. 18.
The Okmulgee County Criminal Justice Authority (OCCJA), which is a public trust within Okmulgee County, operates two detention facilities for the detainment of local and state inmates and federal contracted detainees. Clark related the interaction, which he called “challenging” with the Muscogee Nation (CN) Lighthorse Police (LH) on Monday Dec. 18.
— At approximately 2:30 p.m. (1430 hrs.) Lighthorse Police Officer K. Bell, Officer Torix, and Deputy Police Chief Dennis Northcross, entered the OCCJA main jail attempting to incarcerate an adult male on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a school.
Due to no contractual detention agreement between the OCCJA and the CN, the OCCJA Detention staff preliminarily denied the LH incarceration request. Once it was determined the arrestee was non-native, the detention staff further delayed the incarceration based on jurisdictional understanding. Officer Bell claimed he was acting as a state officer by utilizing a Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) law enforcement credentials while dressed in LH designated uniform. Officer Bell claimed he had to make the arrest due to not being assisted by any local law enforcement organization.
Sgt. Mathew Douglas, the OCCJA booking supervisor, not being familiar with the GRDA or the law enforcement authority of the GRDA, again delayed the incarceration of the arrestee while they sought clarification from the OCCJA Administrative Staff.
While awaiting a response from the Director of Law Enforcement Tim Lawson, Sgt. Douglas walked back into the controlled portion of the booking area leaving the LH officials and arrestee in the pre-booking area. LH Deputy Police Chief Dennis Northcross, for an unknown reason, unlawfully entered the controlled and restricted area of booking, while the door was closing, without authorization from OCCJA staff (Violation of Oklahoma Statute Title 21-445 – A Felony crime).
When Sgt. Douglas unexpectedly turned and saw Northcross, he verbally instructed him he was in a restricted and controlled area and needed to return to the pre-booking area. Northcross resisted the request as Sgt. Douglas attempted to usher him out.
Northcross became aggressive towards Sgt. Douglas and pushed him with two hands (Violation of Oklahoma State Statue Title 21-649 – a Felony crime) and attempted to force his way further into the controlled area. Douglas continued to use his body to block Northcross causing Northcross to attempt to put Douglas in an armbar control technique. Being unsuccessful, Northcross again attempted to push past Douglas moving further into the controlled area while Douglas kept his hands in a non-aggressive position.
Sgt. Douglas was attempting to protect the safety and security of the booking area, where prisoners are housed and kept, noticing Northcross had a cell phone in his hand and believing he may still have his duty weapon or accessories on, which are all restricted items and unlawful to have in the control portion of the detention facility. (Violation of Oklahoma Statute Title 57-21 (E) – A Felony Crime) Within seconds of the event subsiding, Law Enforcement Director Tim Lawson entered the facility area and assisted in restricting LH Officers, Bell and Torix from entering the controlled area. As the video shows, Lawson was immediately able to deescalate the situation and control the dialog.
While the incident was unfolding, within minutes, more than a dozen LH police vehicles, with their light and sirens activated, swarmed the OCCJA facility, blocking 8th street and shutting down the intersection at 8th and Okmulgee Street, making this appear to be a calculated and orchestrated confrontation.
Out of professional courtesy, Lawson had Northcross step into a private office to discuss the situation. Shortly after, the OCCJA Executive Director Shannon Clark arrived in the booking area and began speaking with LH Officer Bell. Bell explained the situation and the authority on which he was attempting to incarcerate the arrestee.
Clark indicates the OCCJA has never been given a copy of any cross-deputization agreement between GRDA and LH and was under the premise that Okmulgee County was not included in part of any cross deputization agreement. After further discussion, Northcross was able to read a portion of a cross deputization agreement from GRDA over the phone and indicated Okmulgee County was included.
Clark attempted to eliminate all questions and liability to ensure the OCCJA was lawfully and ethically incarcerating properly arrested individuals by communicating with the District Attorney’s Office, who agreed to accept the arrestee while they further evaluated the GRDA and LH jurisdiction agreement. The arrestee was then properly processed into the OCCJA facility without further incident.
Following the incident, OCCJA Executive Director Shannon Clark reached out to CN Principal Chief David Hill and scheduled a meeting to discuss the situation and have a better understanding of the LH jurisdiction to eliminate any further confusion going forward. On Wednesday, Dec. 19, Executive Director Shannon Clark and OCCJA Chairman R. David Walker met with Principal Chief Hill and his Administrative Staff. After an hour-long meeting, which Clark described as productive, informative, and insightful, both parties agreed to exchange videos capturing the incident to better understand each other’s professional position. Clark said the meeting ended positively and with the shaking of hands and the exchange of their word. It was agreed to put this incident behind them, in the interest of public safety and make the CN and State a better place.
Unfortunately, within a few hours of the agreement, LH neglected to produce their body cam video to the OCCJA after the CN Counsel received a copy of the OCCJA video footage per the agreement. CN LH also chose to accelerate the opposition and sent multiple LH officers to the OCCJA facility attempting to arrest Sgt. Mathew Douglas, a NON-NATIVE, on a Muscogee Nation criminal arrest warrant for protective status battery (Title 14 § 2-303(B)) on Northcross. The LH was unable to serve the warrant on Douglas as he had left for the evening. The LH remained in the area, driving around the OCCJA facilities and even following a female OCCJA employee all the way to her residence.
“The OCCJA administration and staff are saddened, perplexed, and disheartened that the CN Attorney General Geri Wisner would recklessly and unjustly order for the arrest of a non-native citizen for an alleged crime, utilizing Native laws, while applauding the aggressive and calculated criminal misconduct of her LH colleagues.
“The most disquieting comment made by Wisner, during her press conference was the reference to Oklahoma State Laws. While Wisner contends OCCJA officials committed violations of state laws and should be held accountable, she neglects to acknowledge the LH officer who committed multiple state felony crimes, against the OCCJA, yet can NOT be prosecuted due to the sovereign status of his tribal citizenship.
“Wisner also concluded her prepared statement by suggesting the OCCJA is under state investigation by the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) and the Oklahoma Department of Health (OSDH), State Jail Inspection Division, for the unlawful detention of Tribal Juveniles. The OCCJA wants to make it very clear, both the Petitions for Emergency Relief by those two respective state agencies, were determined to be frivolous and without merit or standing and DENIED by the District Court of Okmulgee County. (CV-2023-00165) (CV2023-00167).”