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Residents, LPD Speak on Vague Description of Shooting Suspect

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LAWTON Okla_ The description of the suspect on the loose after Wednesday's shooting caused a bit of confusion and paranoia in Lawton.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said Police Officer Eric Weatherly is still in the hospital, recovering from two gunshot wounds.

Officials say Weatherly was shot once in the torso and once in the leg during the shootout, but doctors say he will make a full recovery. OSBI said based on eyewitness accounts and analysis, they've been able to determine 22-year old Demetrius Miller shot Weatherly. Miller was also shot, but officials have not released information on his condition or who shot him.

Late Wednesday night, 7News reported police arrested 22-year-old Jamal Erwin Johnson, who was identified as the second suspect in the shooting.  He was taken in on unrelated warrants after a lengthy manhunt.

It was the vague description of that second suspect that prompted a lot of reaction from 7News viewers. The original description that police broadcast was of a black man wearing a black hoodie. Many of our viewers said in northwest Lawton, at this time of year, it didn't really narrow things down much. They said that put just about every black male in that area under suspicion.

Lawton police dispatch had given officers all they knew in the busy aftermath of yesterday's shooting.

"Anonymous caller is advising two black males: one approximately 6'1", the other 6"2' in a black hoodie and a blue hoodie. One possibly had on red pajama bottoms and ran south on 27th when the neighbor pulled into the garage."

When police went on air with that information, viewers on our 7News Facebook page sounded off.

Michelle Pearsall wrote, "Not to be disrespectful, but that description could fit any number of people. Isn't that how Trayvon Martin got shot by Ol' George Zimmerman? A little bit more of a description would be nice and very helpful."

Mark Payne wrote:

"I would hate to be a black male wearing a black hoodie in Lawton. Lol."

So, we asked Lawton Police if such a vague description was effective, and we had seen several people searched who fit it.  In an emailed response, Captain Craig Akard replied:

"Unfortunately, there were multiple individuals that fit that description yesterday, but you need to remember, a police officer was shot by an individual that appeared to be possibly burglarizing a house. One of the suspects involved in the shooting escaped. If we inconvenience a citizen for a couple of moments to verify that he was not the person sought, although unfortunate, it is better than the opposite, where we do not do anything, let the suspect go, maybe burglarize another house or shoot someone else."

Akard said many times, that's all the information they have to work with, especially when the officer is in a life or death situation. He also said the description didn't create panic. The panic was created by the person who decided to shoot a police officer. He said law enforcement was trying to keep the public safe.

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