A closer look

Robin Howard died June 23 from pneumonia caused by blunt force trauma to the chest. The manner of death was ruled a homicide by the state medical examiner.

The 54-year-old Howard was arrested on June 19 after officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop, at which point Howard allegedly led them on a short vehicle chase before crashing and attempting to flee on foot.

Officers subdued Howard, according to police, using knee-strikes on him. Howard was taken to a hospital, where he later died.

His family was not notified of his whereabouts or condition until four days after his death. Police Chief Bill Citty subsequently apologized to the family for the failure of notification.

Police investigators later forwarded the case to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who concluded there was not enough evidence to press charges.

Throughout the investigation, family members have maintained that the police department has been unresponsive to their requests for information. Shortly after the family’s meeting with Prater, however, Citty met with Howard’s family.

During the meeting with Citty, the family was shown the last known photo of Howard alive, according to the family’s attorney, David Slane. He said family members were told that the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division had requested the Oklahoma City FBI office to look into the case.

FBI Special Agent Rick Rains said the bureau can neither confirm nor deny if an investigation is being conducted.

Slane said he had asked Citty whether an ongoing internal affairs investigation into the matter would be compromised because the chief’s assistant is the grandmother of one of the involved officers. According to Slane, Citty said it would not pose a problem but that he would consider removing himself from the probe.

A police spokesman said both officers involved in the incident remain on restricted duty.

Citty told the family that Howard gave two conflicting accounts of what had happened during his arrest. The first story was that the officers simply subdued him when he tried to get away. In the second version, Howard “told them that they beat his ass,” according to Slane.

The attorney said Howard’s relatives don’t accept all the information they received from Citty, but that the meeting was “a step in the right direction.”

In addition, Slane said he has spoken to Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the civil rights leader is tentatively scheduled to visit Oklahoma City Friday to show support for the family.

Clifton Adcock

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