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Incident puts DA, family at odds

Sierra Rains
srains@ardmoreite.com

An Ardmore family publicly released a video captured during a use of force incident with the Lone Grove Police Department last week.

After the District Attorney declined to file charges, the family said they did not feel the situation has been handled properly before taking their complaints public and are seeking criminal repercussions for the officers involved. Police, however, say officers were following protocol as far as the force used during the incident.

On Jan. 4, 2020, two officers from the Lone Grove Police Department were reportedly asked by another officer to investigate a complaint made by his wife regarding male prowlers around their house.

“He was actually on a call, so he contacts the two other officers of Lone Grove that aren’t on a call and tells them ‘Hey can you run down to my house because my wife is freaking out, she hears two male voices’,” said Lone Grove Police Chief Robert Oldham.

Oldham said the officers wrongly assumed that the Carter County Sheriff’s Office had already been contacted since they were aware that the officer’s house was outside of their jurisdiction, adding that it is not uncommon for officers to respond out in the county.

Meanwhile, Sarah Filtz and her husband, Drew Filtz were reportedly celebrating Drew Filtz’s 40th birthday at a residence located about 50-yards away.

By around 11 p.m., Sarah Filtz said several individuals had left the party and their friend from Texas, Kyle Johnson, his teenage son, and her husband Drew Filtz, engaged in some rough housing and “tag type hide and seek” outside.

When officers arrived on scene about 30 minutes later, Oldham said they saw what appeared to be two males running from their fellow officer’s house. One of the responding officers allegedly yelled “Police, stop,” while shining a light towards two of the subjects.

Sarah Filtz said her husband, Drew Filtz, was close enough to hear the officer identify himself and stopped. One officer then detained Drew Filtz and the other continued running after Kyle Johnson and his son.

Drew Filtz allegedly yelled ‘That’s my friend and his son!’ to the other officer, who kept chasing after the other two subjects.

“At this point we don’t know what’s going,” Oldham said, adding that the adults were allegedly intoxicated. When the second officer made contact with Johnson and his son, Oldham said the officer told them “Police, get on the ground.” Oldham said the officer had a taser in his hand at this time.

Sarah Filtz said the officer was allegedly pointing the taser at the teenager, at which point Johnson pushed the child behind him. Oldham said Johnson told the officer to “f off” multiple times.

“The officer tried to reach up and grab him and drag him to the ground, which he pushed off of him and said ‘f you get off of me’,” Oldham said. “That’s when the officer tased him. Somebody inside the house opened the door and they fell inside.”

In the video, the officers can be observed on top of Johnson telling him to “Quit fighting, give us your arm,” amid screaming from Johnson and others at the residence.

“He’s not giving them his arm, you can see the officer actually take the cartridge off the taser and he tased him and he ends up drive stunning him twice, which is a pain compliance method with the taser,” Oldham said.

Drew Filtz said Johnson was allegedly tased six times. However, Oldham said Carter County tasers record every trigger pull and information downloaded from the trigger used in the incident only showed three trigger pulls.

“You actually don’t see him getting tased in the video because he got tased outside of the door,” Oldham said. “But you do see the two drive stuns, you can actually hear the two drive stuns, after he takes the cartridge off and he pulls the trigger twice.”

Shortly after, Oldham said the Lone Grove department learned that the Carter County Sheriff’s Office had not been called and asked for their assistance. “When county got out there they chose not to file any charges on the subjects and released the subjects from the scene,” he said.

While Oldham said the Lone Grove Police Department did “drop the ball” as far as making sure that the county department had been contacted, he said he believes the officers did nothing wrong and were following protocol.

“I don’t know if there’s any other way to handle a situation like that,” Oldham said. “You get a call like that and when you arrive at the house and see two people running from the house, you don’t know. If you’ve got somebody that’s not compliant then the officers either have to go hands on or go to the next level, which is the non-lethal.”

Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant said the sheriff’s office investigated the incident and turned their report over to the District Attorney’s office for further review. District Attorney Craig Ladd said he will not be filing criminal charges, however. In an email, Ladd wrote:

“After a careful review of the reports and evidence submitted to my office regarding the recent tasing incident by a Lone Grove police officer, I am declining to file criminal charges.

While the police officer in question certainly made mistakes and did not handle the situation correctly, the officer did not act with the requisite criminal intent to warrant a criminal prosecution.

The mistakes made in this case should be addressed administratively by the Lone Grove Police Department and/or through a civil lawsuit. What happened that night is best characterized as a horrible and unfortunate misunderstanding.”

Oldham said the Lone Grove Police Department is taking measures to ensure that officers remain in their jurisdiction, unless there is an emergency and another agency outside of city limits asks for the department’s assistance in writing.

However, Sarah and Drew Filtz said this is not what they intended when they decided to release the video. “That’s not what we were aiming for,” Sarah Filtz said. “We’re aiming for officers to obey the law. I would really hope that they would still respond.”

“That still doesn’t correct the issue, because even if it is still inside their jurisdiction, if he has a habit of using his taser excessively, who’s to say if inside the jurisdiction he doesn’t kill somebody with a taser,” Drew Filtz said.

Drew Filtz said he and his wife met with District Attorney Craig Ladd to discuss criminal charges being filed and felt “like we were being strung along.” After their initial meeting in which they were told charges would likely not be filed, the couple said the district attorney requested more time to review the reports.

“It was in that meeting with him that he told us that if we did go public with it he would be less inclined to file charges. He just kept reverting back to how she was young and home alone, pregnant and scared, and to me, that’s completely irrelevant,” Sarah Filtz said. “Most females have been young, home alone, pregnant and scared, I have. You don’t get my sympathy, that’s part of growing up.”

A second meeting with Ladd on Thursday of last week was allegedly canceled and the couple said they haven’t heard anything since.

While the district attorney did inform the couple that they likely had grounds for a civil suit, Sarah Filtz said they still want criminal charges to be filed against the Lone Grove officers.

“We are definitely still seeking legal counsel. We’ve talked to a few attorneys and we’re kind of letting them guide us,” Sarah Filtz said. “We’ve said it from day one, we told the DA that our primary focus is the officers involved being held accountable for what they’ve done.”