TPD adds 11 detectives; fugitive warrants unit nearly doubled
BY AMANDA BLAND World Staff Writer
Monday, September 17, 2012
9/17/12 at 12:54 PM
Correction: The list of detectives' names published with this news story was previously incomplete. The remaining name has been added.
When the Tulsa Police Department's Detective Division commander spoke excitedly of the 11 new detectives who had recently joined his staff, he didn't know Tulsa was about to see four homicides in the next week.
Major Walter Evans met with the Tulsa World on Sept. 7. The new sergeants and officers who came into four of the division's 15 units were finishing up their second week on the job.
Within 24 hours, a Jenks high school student died of gunshot wounds suffered outside of a convenience store and a second man shot in the altercation was clinging to life. In coming days, two women and a man would be shot in an apparent robbery, leaving an additional shooting victim dead, and a man walking down Sheridan Road was stabbed to death.
Kristjan Hinrik Thorsson, 18; John White, 37; Shametra Fields, 25; and Marcus Brice, 19, made for the city's 33rd, 34th, 35th and 36th homicides of this year.
"I've got really high hopes for all of them," Evans said of the detectives.
Four of the positions had been added to beef up the fugitive warrants unit, nearly doubling their manpower.
Evans beamed with pride as he said of the newer, larger unit, "They're going to be a force."
The Detective Division is responsible for initiating investigations and performing follow-up investigations for most crimes classified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as Part 1 crimes, or crimes considered serious in nature or volume. Murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson are all Part 1 crimes; however, arson investigations are generally handled by the Tulsa Fire Marshal's Office.
The fugitive warrants unit is a support arm of the division tasked with tracking down people who don't want to be caught, so investigators can continue their work on a case, said Sgt. Luke Sherman, fugitive warrants unit supervisor.
"When the worst of the worst happens, we get to go and hunt them down," said Officer Chris O'Keefe, one of the unit's new detectives.
And though it's preferable to have one, fugitive warrants detectives say - contrary to what the unit's name implies - a warrant isn't necessary for them to take you in.
Charges have yet to be filed in the Fields slaying, but two men police believe to be involved were arrested by the fugitive warrants unit acting as specialized deputies with the U.S. Marshal Service on the Northern Oklahoma Violent Crimes Task Force on Tuesday. The task force also apprehended suspects wanted in two other homicide cases that day.
"Everybody's still catching their breath," Sherman said in an interview Thursday.
He said there was "no way" the unit could have made the four arrests in a single day without the additional officers.
"I've seen great potential now," Sherman said, noting he had high expectations of the few detectives chosen from dozens of applicants to begin with.
O'Keefe and Officer Jesse McNeal have been with the Tulsa Police Department for 8 and 11 years, respectively. They transferred from patrol positions upon being chosen to join the fugitive warrants unit in mid-August.
O'Keefe said short time with the unit felt more like three days than three weeks, but at the same time "felt like forever."
Long hours chasing leads, conducting surveillance and combing databases often turn into 16-hour days, they said.
"It's a lot of this," McNeal said, leaning forward and tapping his knuckles on the wooden table in front of him.
And you never know when the intelligence you have will lead to a day like Tuesday, when several suspects wanted in violent crimes will be arrested in one day.
"Part of it's luck, part of it's skill," Sherman said.
Evans worked to increase the size of the unit following high-profile crimes such as the Good Friday shootings that left three dead in April and a heinous attack on an older Tulsa couple, Bob and Nancy Strait, in March. The violent crimes task force, which consists of federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement throughout the area, was instrumental in bringing charges against alleged assailants in the still-pending cases, Evans said.
TPD's fugitive warrants unit is the largest single entity in the task force, Evans and Sherman said, comprising nearly half of its members.
The unit works closely with the Detective Division's 100 investigators to ascertain who they need to be looking for.
"We can be as busy as we want to be," Sherman said. But detectives with an aggressive work ethic who are self-initiators are some of the desirable traits he said he looks for when bringing in new people to the unit.
An appreciation for and understanding of teamwork is also paramount to the job.
The unit "seems to get tighter and tighter and tighter," challenging each other and pushing their colleagues to their best performance, Sherman said.
"I couldn't be more happy with the unit."
Tulsa Police Department's new detectives:
Financial Crimes Unit
Sgt. Ali Maurer
Fugitive Warrants Unit
Officer David Brice
Officer Jesse McNeal
Officer Chris O'Keefe
Officer Brad Sharpe
Major Crimes Unit
Sgt. Marcus Harper
Sgt. Shane Tuell
Officer Christy Allen
Officer Mark Ohnesorge
Officer Mark Sole
Officer Matt Frazier
Original Print Headline: Stronger force
Amanda Bland 918-581-8413
Plain clothes Tulsa Police Department fugitive detectives David Brice (left) and Jesse McNeal, standing inside the department's Fugitive Warrants Unit on Friday, are two of the newest additions to the staff. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Tulsa Police Department detective division commander Major Walter Evans spoke excitedly of 11 new detectives joining his staff. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World