Wagoner police identify two officers involved in fatal shooting

The Wagoner Police Department on Friday released radio logs identifying the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of a Coweta man outside a Wagoner fast-food restaurant on Aug. 16, the Muskogee Phoenix reported.

Wagoner Police Chief Bob Haley had refused to disclose the names, citing an ongoing OSBI investigation as justification for not disclosing the names, the newspaper had reported.

But no provision of the Oklahoma Open Records Act permitted such a delay. The statute requires that the following information be made public: "A chronological list of all incidents, including initial offense report information showing the offense, date, time, general location, officer, and a brief summary of what occurred."

The state Attorney General's Office has long said Oklahoma public agencies and officials have a "duty" to provide prompt, reasonable access to public information. (2005 OK AG 3, ¶ 4)

"There is no provision in the Open Records Act for a public body to 'withhold' records for any amount of time, however small. The duty to provide prompt and reasonable access is complied with only when a public body properly attends to its duty to provide a record," according to a formal 1999 opinion. (1999 OK AG 58, ¶ 11)

On Friday, the identities of Officers Jamie Powell and Kevin Higginbottom were revealed in documents provided to the Muskogee Phoenix in response to its Open Records Act request.

District Attorney Brian Kuester on Friday cleared Powell and Higginbottom, saying their use of deadly force was justified because the Coweta man was attacking them with a knife.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.