City will release 911 call in attack on Oklahoma family
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma city reversed course Tuesday and said it would release a recording of the 911 call made from a Broken Arrow home where a couple and three of their children were stabbed to death last week.
Broken Arrow City Attorney Beth Anne Wilkening said in a statement that investigators would provide the audio to the media next Tuesday.
Authorities initially said the call, described by Broken Arrow Police Sgt. Thomas Cooper as “gruesome,” would be released Monday, but an assistant to the city attorney then indicated that it wouldn’t be because it’s part of the investigation into the deaths of five members of the Bever family.
Wilkening says the release was delayed because a prosecutor was concerned the provision of certain records to reporters “could impact the prosecutorial integrity of the case.”
The killings of David Bever, 52, his wife April Bever, 44, and their children Daniel Bever, 12, Christopher Bever, 7, and Victoria Bever, 5, have been classified as homicides, said Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma medical examiner’s office. The final autopsy reports have not been released, Elliott said.
Robert Bever, 18, is accused in a booking document of five counts of first-degree murder and a count of aggravated assault in the attack Wednesday. Prosecutors say they also plan to charge Bever’s 16-year-old brother as an adult.
Cooper had previously described the nature of the call: the caller reports that his brother is attacking the family before the caller and dispatcher have a short exchange about the location of the home.
“They’re able to confirm the location, and then it basically goes to an open line for a little while and you can hear a struggle there and then it disconnects,” Cooper said. “It’s fairly short, but it’s gruesome. Obviously the entire crime is gruesome, and the 911 call is just as bad.”
A media law expert and advocate for public access to records had called on law enforcement Tuesday to release the audio, saying “the investigation doesn’t begin until the 911 call” is made.
“If there’s a gray area, disclosure should be favored over withholding,” said Joey Senat, an associate professor at the Oklahoma State University School of Media and Strategic Communications.
A 13-year-old sister was in serious but stable condition and a 2-year-old sister wasn’t harmed and was placed in state custody. Neither was being identified. The 13-year-old girl, who was found bleeding from multiple stab wounds, made statements to officers that “her brothers” were responsible for the attack, according to a police arrest affidavit.
A police dog tracked the two teens into a wooded area behind the family’s home shortly after officers arrived on the scene, and two knives and a small hatchet were discovered inside the home, police said.
The two teens are scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 3, at which time a plea is expected to be entered on their behalf and a preliminary hearing date will be scheduled.