Tulsa’s police chief made a call for compassion Monday while two of his officers were hospitalized in critical condition after being shot during an early morning traffic stop.
Police Chief Wendell Franklin asked for prayer while noting the situations his officers have faced in recent weeks — from the pressure of a search for two missing children to the anger directed at officers during protests against police brutality.
“I stood before you several weeks ago when we talked about two missing children, and there was compassion from the community in the loss of those two children,” Franklin said. “A few weeks later, I stood before you and sent out correspondence, and there was hatred towards this department and hatred towards law enforcement, and I stand before you today with two officers that are fighting for their lives.
“We need this community to come together.”
Officer Aurash Zarkeshan and Sgt. Craig Johnson were shot multiple times during a traffic stop in east Tulsa early Monday.
Investigators allege in court documents that David Anthony Ware, 32, shot the officers. He was arrested after a manhunt.
“Here in Tulsa today, we’re going to have to pray, and we’re also going to have to take action,” Franklin said during a half-hour news conference at police headquarters in downtown Tulsa.
About 3:30 a.m. Monday, Zarkeshan stopped a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt with an expired temporary tag near the intersection of 21st Street and 89th East Avenue. Johnson arrived shortly afterward to back up Zarkeshan.
Ware, who investigators say was driving the vehicle, refused to get out of the car when the officers told him it was to be towed for taxes due to the state.
Johnson told Ware 12 times to get out of the car, and he demonstrated three times that his Taser was charged, Franklin said.
Johnson and Zarkeshan then tried to pull Ware from the vehicle. During the scuffle, Johnson shot Ware with his Taser, and Ware ripped out the Taser probes, an investigator wrote in an affidavit.
Johnson then pepper-sprayed Ware twice as the officers continued the struggle to remove him from the vehicle.
“Ware reaches under his seat and as the officers are pulling him out, he produces a gun and fires three times at each officer,” the affidavit says.
Ware then shot Johnson three more times while he was on the ground, police allege.
Both officers were struck in the head and torso.
Ware was arguing that the officers were “violating his rights” as they informed him that the vehicle would be towed due to the expired temporary tags, according to court documents.
The investigator wrote in the affidavit that Ware ran from the scene and escaped in a red Jeep SUV, which police allege was driven by Matthew Nicholas Hall, 29.
During the press conference, Franklin provided more information about Ware’s escape.
“The officers went down, and the driver slowly walked away from the vehicle and got into a waiting vehicle that had arrived to the scene and drove away,” he said.
Tulsa County prosecutors charged Ware early Monday morning, before his arrest, with two counts of shooting with intent to kill and possession of a firearm after a former conviction of a felony.
Hall was arrested Monday afternoon and charged with accessory to a felony punishable by four years or more.
According to court records, Ware has an extensive criminal history in Tulsa County with numerous run-ins with local police dating as far back as 2006.
His first felony conviction recorded was for second-degree burglary in 2008, followed by convictions for drug-related offenses in 2014, weapon and larceny offenses in 2015, larceny again in 2016, and possession of drug paraphernalia and burglary tools in 2017.
Johnson, 45, joined the Tulsa Police Department in 2005. He later earned the rank of sergeant and is a graveyard-shift supervisor on the east side of town.
Zarkeshan, 26, is a patrol officer. A recent Tulsa Police Academy graduate, he completed his training in May and has been on patrol for about six weeks.
Franklin remarked about the symbolism of the uniform that police officers wear and how “we sometimes believe that we’re invincible.”
“Every time I put this uniform on, I remember the last part of our oath (of) office, and that says ‘with my life if need be,’” he said.
“This uniform is just that: It’s a uniform,” Franklin said. “Inside of this uniform is just a regular person. I’m just like you, and we’re just like you. The only difference is we do a different job than what you do. So, for us, we’re just as much a part of the community as you are.”
Franklin noted that “for more than 24 years, our department has not had to deal with a situation such as this.”
The last time a Tulsa police officer was killed while on duty was in June 1996. Officers Steve Downie and Dick Hobson were chasing an armed robbery suspect into a dark alley. They had a police dog with them and were wearing vests. The man they were chasing ambushed them, shooting both Downie and Hobson, killing Hobson.
About two years ago, a man shot a Tulsa police lieutenant in the leg while the lieutenant was assisting two other officers who were attempting to persuade a man to get out of his van at a midtown convenience store.
Mayor G.T. Bynum expressed gratitude to the community at large who provided tips that eventually led to Ware’s and Hall’s arrests.
Johnson and Zarkeshan chose to be law enforcers “at a historically challenging time,” Bynum said. He said he has worked before with Johnson, who was essential in remedying the blackout on Tulsa highways after a string of copper thefts.
“If you drive down our highways right now and notice that the lights are on, it’s because of his work,” Bynum said. “It’s the classic example of someone in the Tulsa Police Department who goes out and does their job to make your life better and you may have never heard their name.
“And I also think about Officer Zarkeshan,” Bynum said. “Think about the type of person that is willing to step up and choose law enforcement as a vocation right now in this environment in our country, and you think about what is just a remarkable, selfless public servant it takes to do that.”
As of Monday afternoon, Johnson and Zarkeshan were still in critical condition at two Tulsa hospitals and had both undergone at least one surgery.
The Police Department released a statement from Zarkeshan’s brother on Monday evening in which he said the officer was “out of surgery and stable” but “not out of the woods yet.”
Gallery: Memorial for Tulsa police officers