Family wants investigation into conduct of officer

Oklahoma City police
officers shot and killed Gail Dean Fairless, 73, on March 23 after he picked up
a gun and aimed it at the officers, according to the police department.

The four officers involved
are on administrative leave, including Sgt. Jeff Coffey, who was also involved
in an incident in 2012 in which Robin Howard died from injuries sustained in a
scuffle with police.

Coffey was found of no
wrongdoing by an internal investigation by police in 2012.

Coffey was also injured in
another incident with a suspect in 2013.

Attorney David Slane
submitted a letter on behalf of the Howard family to Police Chief Bill Citty on
Tuesday requesting an investigation into the conduct of Coffey.

“There are three separate
incidents in which someone has either been injured or killed while Sgt. Coffey
was placing them into police custody,” Slane wrote in his letter. “The family
requests that an outside investigation be conducted … the Howard family
believes internal affairs investigations are merely rubber stamps.”

Cpt. Dexter Nelson said
Citty is preparing to respond to the letter and Sunday’s shooting is still
under investigation by homicide investigators, which is standard procedure
following a use of force that results in death.

Nelson said the findings of
the investigation will be submitted to the district attorney’s office and a
citizen advisory board. The same procedures were followed in 2012 following
Howard’s death, including an independent review by the FBI.

Slane said he wasn’t sure
if any wrongdoing occurred on Sunday, but the Howard family was concerned that
the same officer was involved.

“We’re not saying that we
know any of the facts of this most recent case,” Slane said. “All we know is
this, when Jeff Coffey is involved someone gets hurt or dies.”

Nelson said the cases of
Howard and Fairless were very different. Howard died from pneumonia caused by
blunt force trauma to the chest after officers used force to arrest him. In
that case, Nelson said, officers were not attempting to use deadly force.

On Sunday, Fairless pointed a gun at officers and deadly force was
intentionally used in response, Nelson said.

Ben Felder

Ben is an urban affairs reporter covering local government and education in Oklahoma City. He lives in OKC with his wife, Lori, and son, Satchel. Ben holds a masters in new media journalism from Full Sail University and is an OKC transplant from Kansas City, Mo. Twitter: @benfelder_okg



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