Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office.
Signs proclaiming “Justice for Cobie Tyner” have dotted the Tulsa area as a wrongful death lawsuit against the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and the county is set for mediation in a month.
The 18-year-old motorcyclist died in a head-on collision with a car after a Tulsa County sheriff’s deputy made a U-turn in the roadway to pursue another motorcycle traveling 102 mph near Chandler Park 2½ years ago.
A pretrial conference set for Tuesday was pushed back to November to accommodate an attempt to resolve the dispute through mediation on Oct. 7, according to plaintiff’s attorney Dan Smolen.
A conservative estimate tabs Tyner at 5 to 19 mph above the 50 mph speed limit, with a high probability that the teen had been going faster before the motorcycle’s brakes locked up and its tires left skid marks, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol investigation found.
The lawsuit alleges that the deputy “negligently and recklessly” made a U-turn into oncoming traffic on a curve, giving Tyner “no time” to slow and avoid the crash with the other car.
The teen’s father, Derek Tyner, said he’s posted signs in the Tulsa metro area to generate awareness. Tyner said those who drive by his son’s roadside memorial on Avery Drive likely aren’t aware of what happened there on May 14, 2017.
“Let’s say Cobie made a U-turn on Avery Drive. I guarantee if an officer came around that corner and lost his life, Cobie would be charged with vehicular homicide,” Tyner said.
In a February deposition, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. James Loftis testified that Cobie Tyner could have stopped in time had he been driving the posted speed limit.
Loftis’ investigation determined that Tyner took an improper evasive action by applying only the rear brake. However, Loftis testified that he had developed that determination based on the assumption that Tyner was an inexperienced rider.
He testified that he developed a different opinion when he learned of the family’s statements to media outlets that Tyner had been riding motorcycles since the age of 3, meaning he would know how to properly apply both front and rear brakes.
Loftis said he wouldn’t offer a conclusion on the crash’s cause, but he said speed was a contributing factor.
The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against Deputy Andrew Titsworth, citing insufficient evidence of negligent homicide.
"Our hearts go out to the Tyner family for the tragic loss of their son," said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Casey Roebuck. "An independent investigation of the crash was conducted by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The findings of this investigation showed our Deputy was not at fault. We intend to vigorously defend our Deputy in court."
Titsworth wrote in a statement that he saw no traffic in front of or behind him for about a third of a mile before starting to make the U-turn with his emergency equipment activated.
A subsequent internal investigation of Titsworth’s actions by the Sheriff’s Office exonerated him.
The driver of the vehicle that Tyner crashed into as he tried to avoid hitting the deputy’s SUV has a tort claim pending against the Sheriff’s Office and county.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Jennifer Murphy talks about the Tulsa Police new reading program and school supply handout at the Darlington Apartments.