Killing fields

Sgt. Gary Knight
Credit: Shannon Cornman

Compare that to 2011, when there were only 60 homicides recorded in the city.

“We don’t know why,” said Sgt. Gary Knight, assistant public information officer with the Oklahoma City Police Department. “Some were domestic, some involved gang violence, others involved robberies and still others were drug killings.”

The alarming murder rate is reflective of what appears to be a wider problem. Congressional Quarterly lists Oklahoma City as having the ninth-highest crime rate for cities with populations of more than 500,000.

Jaymie Adams of Blanchard was the city’s first homicide victim of the year, her body found Jan. 7 in the 7200 block of S. Douglass Boulevard. The state medical examiner later determined Adams was pregnant at the time of her death, so her unborn child became the city’s
second homicide of 2012. Justin Adams, the victim’s husband, was later
arrested and charged with the murders.

Several
of this year’s murders involved two or three victims. “But that’s not
enough to account for the spike,” said Knight. “The best explanation is
that a city this size is going to have its share of homicides.”

Two
multiple-homicide cases involved domestic incidents in which a wife and
child were murdered by the husband who then killed himself. On Feb. 28,
the bodies of Tara Shay Johnston and her 16-month-old daughter,
Allison, were found in their home on Teakwood Road. The next day, Daniel
Johnston, the husband and father, was found dead in a Las Vegas hotel
room, where he had shot and killed himself. He had fled there after
murdering his family.

Chief Brandon Clabes

About
two weeks after that killing, Juan De Los Santos, 43, went to his home
on N.W. 15th Street and argued with his estranged wife, Claudia Aguilar,
who had filed for divorce. He pulled out a gun and shot and killed the
35-year-old woman and their 5-year old daughter before turning the
weapon on himself.

Then
slightly more than a month later, shots erupted at one minute past
midnight on the city’s south side. At the crime scene on S. Durland,
police found the bodies of James Lumpkin, 42, Kayla Ramirez, 19, and
Francisco Grajeda, 19. Homicide detectives believe they have solved the
case but have no one in custody; the three suspects fled to Mexico and
have yet to be apprehended.

Some
of the city’s homicides have involved alleged gang members such as
Joshua Londale Rogers, known on the streets as “Bad Eye.” Police say he
belongs to the 107 Hoover Crips gang and gunned down two people June 7
at the Sooner Haven Apartments.

The
victims were Israel Jackson, 24 and Shavon Johnson, 26. Rogers is in
Oklahoma County jail facing charges of first-degree murder.


Domestic violence

Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes said most homicides in his city have been domestic in nature. The
city recorded eight murder victims in in 2011. So far this year,
Midwest City has had seven victims in six murder incidents. “We blame it
on an increase in domestic violence,” said Clabes. “It stems from
character values — some people just have no value to life. They’d soon
as kill you as work out their problems.”

He said there is no way to stop domestic murders, adding, “We can’t stop it unless somebody reaches out for help.”

A
dozen detectives work in the OKCPD homicide unit. a team that Knight
called a “very special and elite unit of veteran officers.” He said they
vary in age from their 30s up to their 60s and made it to the Homicide
Division after spending years in other units.

Typically, OKCPD homicide detectives work an eight-hour shift during the day, with two officers on call at night.

“They have tried-and-true ways in what they do,” said Knight, who explained the detectives
must do most of their investigative work during daylight hours when
interviews are conducted and the officers have access to the courts.

Knight
said he believes advanced technology has helped reduce the city’s
homicide rate. He suggested that better emergency medical care has kept
the numbers down.

“We have highly skilled and trained professionals now on the scene, not to mention improvements at trauma centers,” he said.

A city this size is going to have its share of homicides.

—Gary Knight

In short, gone are
the days, such as in the 1970s, when two people from a funeral home
arrived in a station wagon to transport a victim to the hospital.
Emergency care has made great strides in the decades since. Crime
victims who might have died in the ’70s and ’80s are now being saved.
Not only are the responders better trained and skilled, but their
ambulances are mobile trauma centers. The chances of saving a life in
the field are far greater.

Knight
notes that all parts of the city have experienced their share of
violent deaths. For now, homicide detectives can only wait on the next
call that someone has met a violent death.

They
cannot stop the increase in murders, nor could they take credit for a
year when there was a drop in the number of city homicides. As Knight
put it, “Nobody really knows what the driving force is.”

Jerry Bohnen

This material falls under the archives category because it was imported from our previous website. It will eventually be filtered into the proper category as time allows.

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