Court documents reveal more information on 2018 officer-involved shooting in Lone Grove
Nearly three years past the initial incident in Lone Grove, a use of force case is still ongoing in court. While most civil lawsuits are settled before they reach trial, the case may end up going to trial later this year.
Travis Graham filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma on Sep. 4, 2019 for an alleged civil rights violation. On March 3, 2018, Graham was reportedly involved in an incident where he was shot by a Lone Grove police officer at a residence near Fruit Street.
Graham survived his injuries and on March 23, 2018 he was charged with feloniously pointing a firearm. The case was later dismissed on Jan. 9, 2019 after it was determined that the evidence at the time was “insufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The defendants in the suit include the two officers involved in the 2018 incident, the City of Lone Grove, the Lone Grove Police Chief at the time, Carter County Sheriff and the Carter County Board of Commissioners.
The lawsuit makes several allegations against the defendants, including use of excessive force, failure to intervene, unreasonable search and seizure, deliberately indifferent training and negligence.
As the case develops, more information has become available on the alleged events on March 3, 2018. An amended complaint filed by Graham on Sep. 9, 2019 details his claims and reasoning for the lawsuit, while documents filed earlier this month contain information from the defendants disputing the claims.
According to the amended complaint, a Lone Grove police officer was dispatched to the residence on Fruit Street with the purpose of performing a welfare check on the night of the incident. The officer reportedly called for backup from the Carter County Sheriff’s Office before arriving on scene. A document requesting summary judgement provides more details from the sheriff’s office.
According to the Carter County Sheriff’s Office, the reporting party allegedly contacted police with concerns regarding Graham’s welfare and informed them that he was intoxicated, armed and “hostile toward the police.”
The Lone Grove officer responding to the call reportedly had multiple prior contacts with Graham, but did not have any problems with him during those interactions and “did not feel that (Graham) would be violent toward him,” according to court documents.
Both documents state that the officers arrived at the residence in separate cars with their police sirens and lights turned off. The sheriff’s office alleges that this was done in accordance with training.
Graham’s complaint states that neither officer announced their presence as police officers before or while they were knocking on the door of his residence, and shined flash-lights through the windows. According to the sheriff’s office, the Lone Grove officer called out Graham’s name, but there was no response for a period of time.
After a period of time, the officers reportedly heard movement inside and a man’s voice yell something, described as in an angry manner. The documents state that the door was then opened abruptly and Graham was allegedly standing at the threshold holding a handgun.
As the door opened, the Lone Grove officer allegedly yelled out “gun” and drew his firearm.
Graham claims that he was asleep when the officers knocked on the door and called out his name, and alleges that he had reason to believe the individuals outside of his residence were potential intruders.
In the complaint, Graham acknowledges that he answered the door armed with a pistol, but denies that he ever pointed the weapon at either officer. The Lone Grove officer, however, claims that Graham pointed the pistol directly at him.
Graham’s attorneys allege that he never fired his firearm and was using the gun as “lawful defensive force.” The complaint also alleges that neither officer ordered Graham to drop his weapon or alerted him to their presence as police officers before the Lone Grove officer fired his weapon.
The documents state that three shots were fired at Graham, striking him in the arm and the torso from the front. The bullets also reportedly struck his refrigerator and other locations of his residence.
The Lone Grove officer claims that he was in fear for his life, and the Carter County deputy described the events as “happening within a snap of his fingers.” However, Graham alleges that the deputy had enough time where he could have potentially intervened.
According to the complaint, the Lone Grove officer did not have his body camera on at the time of the incident and the Carter County deputy was reportedly not wearing a body camera. Emergency medical services reportedly transported Graham by ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Ardmore, and he was later flown to a hospital in Denton, Texas.
The lawsuit alleges that the officer who fired his weapon used excessive and unreasonable force upon Graham, and that the Carter County deputy allowed the unnecessary use of force. Graham’s attorneys further claim that the officers were not trained properly by the police chief and sheriff, and allege that they should also be held responsible.
According to the sheriff’s office, every CCSO officer is provided with opportunities for staff training on the use of deadly force and at the time, the sheriff’s office had a policy allowing officers to use deadly force to protect themselves or others when they have cause to believe they or others are in danger.
The defendants attorney disputed that claim in court filings, alleging that at the time of the incident, the CCSO reportedly had no set policy as to how to approach a welfare check call because of the variation in each situation. “The unwritten practice regarding such welfare checks was to proceed with extreme care and caution in accordance with the threat level perceived by the officer at the time,” the document states.
Graham is seeking compensatory, property damage and punitive damages along with his attorney’s fees and medical and hospital expenses in the amount of $75,000. Graham has also demanded a jury trial for all issues presented in the complaint.
The schedule for the case has been amended several times throughout the process, and another motion for extension was filed on Jan. 6, 2021. However, the court has not made a decision yet. According to court documents, the pandemic has also played a part in delaying a trial or settlement in the case.
A settlement conference is held before any trial to provide both parties with an opportunity to privately discuss the case and potentially settle the case. At this time, a settlement conference is scheduled for Feb. 10. A trial by jury is scheduled for Aug. 3 should the parties not reach a settlement before then.