Oologah Lake incident results in high online traffic, death threats to Rogers County deputies
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
7/24/12 at 6:47 PM
CLAREMORE -- Rogers County Sheriff's deputies received death threats after online users flooded the Facebook pages of Tulsa news media with a note critical of the agency's response to a stranded family's request for help, a Sheriff's spokesman said.
The note -- posted by other users on different pages but attributed to a woman who was locked inside an Oologah Lake park at closing Saturday -- alleges that deputies mistreated the woman and asks media to tell her story.
Phone calls and online messages in response to the note have threatened the lives of two deputies involved in the incident, one of whom is mentioned by name in the note, agency spokesman Jerry Smittle said.
"This is a first for us to get hit like this," he said. "It's one thing to get comments, but its another thing to be virally attacked."
Smittle said Tera Mattingly, 26, called the Sheriff's Office shortly after dark Saturday and reported that a gate at Clermont Park had been closed before she could leave.
When deputies arrived, they found Mattingly, her 5-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old girl in a badly-damaged SUV that had apparently rammed the gate and then gotten stuck in a ditch while trying to drive around it, Smittle said.
Although Mattingly was hostile -- at one point she allegedly told her daughter to call deputies pigs -- deputies called a wrecker and took the group to meet a friend who could take them home, Smittle said.
But the Facebook note attributed to Mattingly alleges that the deputies handcuffed her, put her into a police car and threatened to jail her and take her daughter away. It adds that the deputies eventually cited her and left the group to fend for themselves without a vehicle.
Smittle said a Tulsa Corps of Engineers official cited Mattingly for destruction of property but that she was not arrested or cited by deputies, who only wanted to help her.
"It's a little unsettling, of course, for something that really was a non-event, other than the driver of the vehicle making some bad decisions," he said. "We're being blamed for it when actually we were there to do our job and get her family on their way."
The hype around the story has been unprecedented for the Sheriff's Office, he said.
After the agency posted its own version of the incident on its Facebook page early Tuesday, page views increased by at least 12,000 and hundreds of users commented, Smittle said.
Hundreds of users had already commented on copies of the letter attributed to Mattingly that were posted on the Facebook pages of Tulsa television stations.
In some cases, users passionately implored reporters to investigate the incident. Others seemed to attack the Sheriff's Office, Smittle said.
"These people go there to just trash everything they can," he said. "There are a few comments from lucid people that you can actually understand."
He said the Sheriff's Office planned to look into the death threats and decide if it should pursue charges, but that it might be difficult because the phone calls were anonymous and names associated with online accounts might be fake.
Mattingly pleaded guilty in 2005 to larceny, obstructing an officer and possessing drugs in Rogers County, records show.
She was also arrested in Tulsa on larceny, assault, drug and malicious vandalism complaints in January and 2004.
According to the Sheriff's Office version of Saturday events, Mattingly told deputies that her daughter had seen her arrested before and that deputies shouldn't worry about arresting her again.
Attempts to contact Mattingly on Tuesday were unsuccessful.