Residents of Oklahoma town demand answers in police shooting
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Residents of an Oklahoma town were still waiting for answers Monday on what prompted police to open fire on a pickup truck last week, wounding three children and a man who authorities say was wanted in a robbery.
Three days after the shooting, it remained unclear why gunfire broke out Friday when two Hugo police detectives tried to pick up William Devaughn Smith, 21, on a robbery warrant. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation says Smith and four children were in the truck outside a community center that serves food. One child wasn’t hurt. The agency had previously said the children’s mother was in the truck but said Monday she was not.
The three children who were wounded have been released from the hospital.
OSBI said Monday that the children’s mother, Olivia Hill, is in a relationship with Smith. Hill told KXII-TV in Sherman, Texas, that her 4-year-old daughter was shot in the head, her 5-year-old child has a skull fracture and that her 1-year-old has gunshot wounds on her face.
The state agency has not released the names of the detectives, who have since been placed on paid leave. The agency and local police also have not said how they connected Smith to the robbery of a restaurant earlier this month. Authorities have not said if Smith fired a weapon in the confrontation with police on Friday.
A statement from OSBI on Monday said the investigation is ongoing and evolving and that when it is complete, a report will be submitted to the local district attorney’s office for review.
“Since the time of the incident on Friday afternoon, the OSBI has had agents on the ground collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses,” the agency said.
Rodney Cox grew up in Hugo, a town with about 5,200 residents, and was leading demonstrations there Monday. He and others are asking for local and state officials to show any police videos of the shooting and for a public release of a report on the incident. Residents also want to know if the officers involved were appropriately trained.
“If those were your kids in the car, how would you feel about the situation and what would you want to be done?” said Cox, who now lives in Oklahoma City. “We’re not hearing much right now.”
Calls to the Hugo Police Department went unanswered Monday afternoon, and the department Facebook page was no longer available.
State Rep. Justin Humphrey’s district includes Hugo. He said Monday that he met with community leaders over the weekend and is pushing authorities to be open about the investigation.
“There’s no question the community has a right to be concerned, and I think these requests are reasonable,” Humphrey said. “I’ve been in contact with the OSBI and have asked that they work with me to make the investigation as transparent and as open as we can.”
The police chief in Paris, Texas, whose officers arrested Smith on Friday after he was treated and released from a hospital there, said he’s also not clear on aspects of the Oklahoma investigation. Chief Bob Hundley said he’d seen reports that the children were shot in the head and others that their injuries were not life-threatening.
“The only information I’ve been made aware of is conflicting information,” Hundley said.
Smith was being held Monday on an aggravated robbery complaint in the jail in Choctaw County, Oklahoma. Jail records don’t indicate he has an attorney to speak on his behalf.
Smith is suspected in an April 11 armed robbery at a Pizza Hut in Hugo, about 180 miles (290 kilometers) southeast of Oklahoma City and near the Texas state line. A now-unavailable post on the Hugo police Facebook page said a man entered a back door of the restaurant, pressed an object to an employee’s back and demanded money. Police said the worker handed over cash and the robber left.
Associated Press writers Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City and Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.