Noble Oklahoma: The first shot was so loud it made the hair stand straight up on Jack Tracy's arm. The bullet hit the water just a few feet in front of the boat dock where he was standing. Instinctively, he pulled his 5-year-old grandson, Austin Haley, close to his left side and began yelling that there were people down by the pond. Then came the second shot, and the unforgettable thump of a 9 mm bullet penetrating a young boy's skull.
"It went right through the back of his head and came out the front,” Tracy said. "He was just bleeding severely and I knew, right then, he was most likely dead, right there.” Tracy thought he and his grandson were under attack by someone trying to kill them both, so he threw the boy into the back of a 4-wheeler and drove to his daughter's house about 200 yards away.
"Then two officers came out of the brush over there,” he said. "They didn't tell us they were the ones who had been shooting or that they had shot him. They didn't admit a doggone thing.” Much later, Tracy said, he found out one of the officers had fired two shots in the Crest Lane neighborhood, trying to kill a snake that had become lodged in a birdhouse on the back porch of a house just up the hill from Tracy's pond.
Police had gotten a call of a snake complaint from a woman on Crest Lane, whose 16-year-old daughter saw the snake hanging about 3 feet of its body outside a neighbor's bird house. The woman, who would not identify herself, told The Oklahoman she called the police station to see if animal control could respond and take care of the snake, which she believed to be a diamondback rattlesnake. She was told that the city, which lost its only animal control officer recently, would send a police officer over to help.
"This was just a freak and tragic accident,” the woman said, "and I just feel really bad for everyone involved.” Other neighbors weren't as sympathetic.
Crest Lane resident Kara Johnson said there was no excuse for shooting a gun at a snake in a residential area. "It's a shame that someone had to lose their 5-year-old child over a snake,” Johnson said. "And that's their only child. They'll never get their kid back.”
Neighbor G.W. Henderson said his wife heard a woman screaming within minutes of the shots. "She was shouting ‘You shot my boy! You shot my boy!'” Henderson said.
City Manager Bob Wade said rumors of overeager Noble officers are inaccurate.
"I was told that they tried several ways to get the snake down, but it was still hissing at them and firmly lodged,” Wade said. "What I was told is that the owner of the home either suggested or agreed that they should go ahead and shoot the snake, and then everything happened from there.” Wade refused to identify the officer suspected of firing the shots but said the officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents were told that officers decided to shoot the animal after being told there was a field behind them, said Jessica Brown, bureau spokeswoman. "The first shot grazed the snake, and the second killed it,” Brown said.
Wade said he is 90 percent sure that the same bullet that killed the snake also killed Austin, but due to the trajectory of the shot and the fact that Austin and his grandfather were downhill, investigators have to be 100 percent certain. "This is so bizarre it has to be fully investigated. ... We're pretty sure circumstantially that it is the bullet from the police officer's gun, but it might be a bullet from someone else,” Wade said.
Tracy has little doubt about what happened. "I was standing right beside him when they shot him in the head,” he said. "There just wasn't anything I could do for this baby. He was dead. And he was just the finest Christian boy. His mother just bought him a Bible not a week before this — he wanted one that was camouflage because he was in the Lord's army.'”
Tracy said that when he saw the news reports and heard the police chief saying it was an "unfortunate accident,” the remark seemed too trivial and dismissive. "I'm not saying the cop shot him on purpose,” Tracy said. "It was an accident. But let me tell you — if I had a kid and put him in this car and didn't put him in a car seat and he got killed on the way to town, they'd charge me with murder ... and what this cop did is a lot worse than that. ... There was no reason for him to kill my grandson.”
By Johnny Johnson
Staff Writer NewsOK.com
Rule Four God Dammit! Rule Four! This is not a damned accident! This is negligence, pure and simple. There is no rational reason for this tragedy. None. These officers should be prosecuted. The shooter for negligent homicide. His partner as an accessory.
And to think that these are likely the same nimrods who run around saying that firearms are too dangerous to be in the hands of civilians. Yep, they probably believe they are the only ones professino enuff.
Be certain of your target and what lies beyond it. Rule Four.
A comment from Austin Haley's mother:
My name is Renee Haley....the proud mother of Austin Haley who was shot and killed by a Noble Police Officer. I want to mention two very important things that have been somewhat forgotten in the blogs. First, the THREE police officers who reported to the house of the snake, decided to literally pick up their feet, step over a hoe, rake, and hedge clippers placed directly inside the gate before the police officers arrived to shoot the snake. The second fact is this was not a poisonous snake, but a rat snake that is very similar to a king snake. It was five feet long, but it could not get out of the small opening in the bird house because it had eaten bird eggs or birds. It was stuck and harmless! I do forgive the police officer who shot my precious son, but I do believe there have to be consequences of his behavior. Please keep us in your prayers...God bless all of you.
Video statements from the Haley family.
Jeff Cooper on shooting snakes.
And the news story.........