Oklahoma state trooper cleared in fatal shooting of fugitive
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma prosecutors have cleared a state trooper of wrongdoing after he fatally shot a man who fled from him and another officer.
William Aubrey Martin III, 50, was shot June 27 after trying to flee when his pickup truck became stuck on a metal privacy fence in a Tulsa backyard. Martin was shot twice in the head, according to the medical examiner’s autopsy report.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said that Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Brian Costanza, a member of the Northern Oklahoma Violent Fugitive Task Force, had been pursuing Martin and opened fire from behind when the pickup’s engine revved and he saw its tires spinning in reverse. His task force partner, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Deputy Evan Foster, had also been pursuing Martin.
Costanza had reasonable fear for his life, said First Assistant District Attorney Erik Grayless, adding that Martin had time to put the truck back into drive as the trooper fired at least 10 rounds.
Kunzweiler told the Tulsa World on Wednesday that Martin showed a “great disregard” for human safety during the high-speed chase through neighborhoods and the University of Tulsa campus, further supporting the trooper’s use of deadly force to stop the threat.
“(Martin) knows full well where he’s at and that he’s got police directly behind him,” Kunzweiler said. “So when he shifts it into reverse, my read is he knows he’s going to use his vehicle as a weapon against anything that’s behind him, including an officer or an officer in a car.”
No weapons were found on Martin or inside the black 2017 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck.
Costanza identified Martin in a Tulsa pawnshop as a person who had been sought by the U.S. Marshals Service for about a year on warrants linked to numerous felony charges for which he did not appear in court, Highway Patrol documents show.
The patrol said it will conduct an administrative internal review of the chase and shooting.
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com