An Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who was suspended last month for “allegations of conduct violations” is the latest trooper placed on paid leave by the agency, Capt. George Brown said.
Eric Roberts, a 16-year veteran assigned to the Turner Turnpike, was suspended with pay July 24, Brown said. He did not go into specifics about why Roberts was suspended.
A representative of the Creek County District Attorney’s Office said that office was aware of allegations made against Roberts, but he could not yet comment on the case, calling it an “Oklahoma Highway Patrol personnel matter for the time being.”
Roberts was suspended about three weeks after Trooper Joshua Eli Davies, 33, was arrested on allegations that he was under the influence of alcohol while driving on duty. Davies, according to court documents, had a breath alcohol reading of 0.27 — more than three times the legal limit — hours after he crashed his patrol vehicle and destroyed the OHP boat he was towing south of Sallisaw in Sequoyah County.
Davies has been charged with misdemeanor DUI and possession of a firearm while intoxicated, according to Sequoyah County First Assistant District Attorney Jack Thorp.
In the public eye
Roberts and Davies are the latest troopers to face public scrutiny. Last week, Brown said Sheldon Robinson, who shot and killed a man outside a Tulsa motel last September, remained suspended with pay despite having been cleared by the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office in January.
Robinson, 45, fatally shot Michael Troy Swatosh, 25, outside the Best Budget Inn at Admiral Place and Sheridan Road about 1 a.m. Sept. 1, authorities said. Robinson, a highly decorated 16-year veteran of the OHP, was off duty at the time.
In January, Tulsa County First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond announced that Robinson would not face criminal charges stemming from the shooting, the second time Robinson — the 2012 recipient of the OHP’s Humanitarian Award — had shot a man while off duty.
Drummond said the DA’s Office’s investigation, which included the review of a comprehensive 502-page report from an OHP investigator, was only “part of the puzzle.”
On Thursday, OHP Capt. George Brown classified Robinson’s status within the agency as a “personnel issue,” saying that while the DA’s Office in Tulsa had not found Robinson criminally liable, an internal investigation was ongoing.
Brown said he expected a final determination on Robinson’s status “within the next two weeks.”
An affidavit filed last year states that Robinson reported that he stopped at the motel after he saw Swatosh and another man point a gun at his vehicle as Robinson was driving on Admiral Boulevard.
However, that same affidavit states that surveillance video shows Robinson on a second-floor “hallway” on the exterior of the motel before the shooting and then at a pharmacy across the street.
Swatosh, according to the affidavit, had been seen at the motel before the shooting with a gun tucked into the front of his pants, and a woman who had been staying there with Swatosh and another man said the two men had been playing with air-propellant guns that day.
Witnesses told investigators they had seen a dark Mercedes — Robinson was driving a dark Mercedes that day, according to the affidavit — driving around the area of the motel in the hours before the shooting.
Other high-profile cases
Robinson’s case was the first of three shootings involving OHP troopers last September. Trooper Bobby Raines fatally shot Tel Levi Rodgers on Sept. 21 after a physical struggle outside a Tulsa apartment complex.
A day later, Trooper Joe Kimmons shot a teenager while responding to a road-rage incident in Norman. The teenager, who survived, reportedly had reached for another responding officer’s gun.
Robinson, Raines and Kimmons were all cleared by their respective district attorney’s offices. Robinson remains suspended, but information on Raines’ and Kimmons’ status with the agency will not be available until Tuesday due to a manpower crunch, Brown said. Also, the patrol could not release Kimmons’ photo on Monday.
Following that trio of shootings, the OHP sent out a media release detailing the dangers troopers face while on the job.
Brown said at the time that the news release was meant to raise awareness about the dangers law enforcement officers face in their line of work.
“It’s very concerning, and if we have that many people willing to assault officers, think about what they would be capable of against civilians,” he said at the time.
Two other troopers were placed on administrative leave in January pending the outcome of an investigation into the fatal shooting of Zachary J. Sumner, 34, of Midwest City on Jan. 25.
Troopers had pursued Sumner from Oklahoma City to Del City, patrol Lt. Brian Orr said at the time. At the end of the chase, Sumner got out of the car and exchanged gunfire with Troopers Ryan Smith and Chris Bunch, Orr said.
Smith was shot in the face, and Bunch was injured in the leg. Both men were treated at an Oklahoma City hospital and released, Orr said.
The Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office was not available Monday to comment on whether Smith and Bunch were cleared in the shooting, but records show that no charges were filed.
As with Raines’ and Kimmons’ cases, Brown said information regarding Smith’s and Bunch’s status would not be released until Tuesday.
One other trooper remains on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, the OHP reported. The Nowata County District Attorney’s Office is still awaiting the medical examiner’s report in the death of Joshua Stand, 35, of Delaware, Oklahoma, in that case.
The trooper, Jerrod Martin, responded on June 16 to a call about a man walking a Delaware street with a weapon. After a brief foot pursuit, Martin fatally shot Stand, who witnesses said had a knife.