Prosecutors have dropped a felony charge of assault and battery on a police officer filed against a Tulsa man arrested on his own property during a police search for two auto theft suspects in August.
Jack Morris, 53, had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing Monday for the felony assault and battery charge, but court records indicate Special Judge Clifford Smith dismissed it and a related misdemeanor charge that alleged assault against an officer.
The charges were dismissed following a request by the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.
Morris entered guilty pleas to two misdemeanor counts — obstruction and resisting an officer, for which Smith handed down a 90-day deferred sentence and ordered Morris to participate in counseling.
“Based on the facts of this case, and in collaboration with the Tulsa Police Department, we believe that today’s resolution was a just result for all parties involved,” Assistant District Attorney John Brasher said in a statement.
Morris was arrested Aug. 16 following an argument with Officers Joshua Dupler and Anthony First, who were looking for two men believed to have stolen a car. Officers believed at least one of the men tried to hide in a barn on Morris’ property in the area of 49th Street and Harvard Avenue, and said Morris was arrested after he did not comply with their orders.
The assault and battery count named Dupler as the victim, while the misdemeanor assault charge stated that First was the officer at issue. However, Morris contended he did not make any attempt to assault the officers and said they unnecessarily escalated the interaction to the point where he was tackled to the ground and hit repeatedly.
Police later arrested Antonio Luna of Tulsa in connection with the reported vehicle theft, and prosecutors filed a misdemeanor charge of joyriding against him Aug. 21. Luna pleaded guilty Sept. 25 and received a one-year suspended sentence.
In a previous interview with the Tulsa World, Morris — a contributor to the World’s Outdoors page — said he drove to his field after a neighbor informed him that officers were on his property, and that the argument with police began after he said he wanted to check on the safety of one of his horses. He alleged the officers’ conduct resulted in his hospitalization because he needed stitches and also had a broken arm.
The Tulsa Police Department later released 14 dash cam video clips associated with Morris’ arrest, which showed the officers detailing their account of what they said had led to their decision to take Morris into custody. None of the videos showed the altercation.
One of the officers, believed to have been Dupler based on wording in Morris’ arrest report, alleged he sustained a small mark on his face after Morris “either headbutted me or threw an elbow,” which appears to have formed the basis for the assault charge.
“Then I remember him pushing up (and) you and I — he’s a strong bastard — he’s pushing up, and I fired off three or four closed-fist hand strikes, but they were, you know, medium force, literally just in an attempt to bring his hands back up so we could get access to his hands again,” the officer says in one video clip.
“And then later on I think (Sgt. Kurt) Dodd or I put a knee into him, and me and you finally got both hands behind his back even though I know there were like four different times when he got his hands away from us.”
The same officer is later heard saying Morris was pepper-sprayed and subjected to physical strikes, and believed it was a good use of force according to department policies.
A TPD spokesman has said the incident would be subject to an internal use of force review, but it wasn’t clear Monday evening whether that was complete.
“He’s probably still gonna try to sue us just because he’s an asshat and he’s got money,” the officer states, adding that he believed Morris was “one of those guys that does not understand how things work and should have followed commands.”
Ben Fu, Morris’ attorney, issued a statement indicating Morris believed the outcome was “the best decision for his family.”
“However, in no way does this mitigate the clear evidence of excessive force used against Mr. Morris by TPD officers,” Fu said.
Fu added that it’s clear Morris’ case was handled differently than that of Tulsa Police Sgt. Dedlorn Sanders, who is serving a deferred sentence until January related to a physical fight with another officer captured on a dash cam in June.
Unlike Morris, Sanders was not arrested at the scene following a decision from Tulsa Police command staff. Sanders turned himself in July 13 — the same day a felony assault and battery charge was filed against him.
He entered a no-contest plea Oct. 9 to a misdemeanor count of outraging public decency, and his conduct is under review by the department’s Internal Affairs unit.