Lawton_Comanche County District Attorney Robert Schulte says a Lawton police officer was justified in the shooting death Marcel Johnson last month. Officer Luis Pagan shot and killed 25-year-old Johnson, of Lawton, during a traffic stop near 13th and Summit.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) has been investigating the case since the shooting, and turned over its report to the DA on Monday. Schulte announced his decision on the case at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon. He discussed his decision and the OSBI's investigation, relating questions he had asked himself with regard to the case. "Did this officer act as a reasonable and prudent person would, feeling that he was in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death, meaning that the shooting itself was justifiable?"
The 165-page investigation clearly detailed that Officer Pagan felt he was in imminent danger, which is why Schulte ruled that the officer acted in self-defense. The report explained for the first time that there was nearly a collision between Pagan and Johnson that initiated the traffic stop. Pagan was driving behind Johnson as Johnson changed lanes, and as Pagan passed, Johnson moved back into Pagan's lane, and the officer had to move to avoid being struck.
The report says that Officer Pagan had turned on his overhead lights and called dispatch to report the license plate on Johnson's vehicle, and his location. Pagan reported that Johnson reached on top and below the passenger seat as if he were looking for something.
Pagan stopped Johnson on a side street, and as Pagan was about to exit his vehicle, Johnson backed his up toward Pagan's squad car. The report says that Pagan backed up to avoid being hit so his air bags would not deploy. Pagan got out of his car and shouted three times for Johnson to remain in his vehicle, and when Johnson got out of his car, Pagan says he saw a shiny object in his hand, which Pagan thought was a gun - it was a silver cell phone.
As Johnson approached the officer, Pagan shot three times, hitting Johnson in his shoulder and the front of his neck. Schulte says Pagan acted in self-defense, and the DA's Office will not take any action. "This individual forced the situation when he got out and approached the officer," said Schulte. "The officer, in his own mind, when he saw that he had something in his hand, when he was coming towards him, was convinced that it was a weapon."
Pagan called dispatch to report the shooting, and his backup arrived 30 seconds later. They found the cell phone in Johnson's hand, and 13 grams of cocaine wrapped in cellophane lying next to his body. Schulte says a toxicology report showed that Johnson had both PCP and Xanax in his system at the time of his death, which may have influenced his erratic behavior. "You've got a young person out there with a great deal of promise, comes from a loving family, that gets into drugs with tragic consequences," said Schulte. "It's sad for everybody concerned."
David Butler, the Johnson family's attorney, said the family was not surprised by Schulte's decision, but are frustrated and disappointed. Butler says they are investigating the possibility of filing a civil suit against Pagan and the Lawton Police Department (LPD). Police Chief Ronnie Smith says the LPD will investigate whether any officers violated department policies, and Pagan will receive psychological testing to determine when he can return to duty.
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