A Nurse with a Gun

Friday, September 07, 2007

Charges Filed in the Austin Haley Shooting

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Second-degree manslaughter charges will be filed against two Noble police officers involved in the accidental fatal shooting of a 5-year-old boy, a district attorney said Friday.
Renee and Jack Haley await the news conference/announcement
Austin Gabriel Haley was killed Aug. 3 after one of the officers fired his .40-caliber handgun at a snake in a birdhouse outside a home in Noble. The boy was standing at a dock at a pond near the house when he was hit.

District Attorney Greg Mashburn identified the officers as Brad Rogers and Shawn Richardson. They would face up to four years in prison if convicted of the felony charge. Mashburn said he researched the law extensively, visited the shooting scene twice and met with family members of the boy before making his decision. "I take no pleasure in this decision," he said. "Although this shooting is accidental, with reasonable care and caution, the death of a child could have been avoided."

The boy's parents, who were at the news conference where Mashburn made his announcement, said they supported the prosecutor's decision. The officer who fired the shot believed the snake to be a rattlesnake, but it turned out to be a harmless black rat snake that is often mistaken for a dangerous snake, Noble City Manager Bob Wade said. The city of Noble had no animal control officer at the time of the shooting.

District Attorney Greg Mashburn has declared the child's death was caused by "culpable negligence". "I conclude that these officers failed to do something that a reasonably careful person would do, by firing a weapon at a non-poisonous snake that was stuck in a birdhouse without knowing what lay behind their location," he said.

Paul Bradley Rogers, a sworn rookie peace police officer, fired his sidearm at a snake stuck in a birdhouse. He misidentified the snake as a rattlesnake. The snake was actually a black rat snake. City officials, being the snake experts they are, claim this confusion between rattlesnakes and black rat snakes is not uncommon in the area.

The dumbass errant officer who could not tell a stuck black rat snake from a viciously attacking killer rattler took the life of a child. Paul Bradley Rogers killed little Austin Haley.
Let me rephrase that.......Paul Bradley Rogers took the life from Austin Haley. Paul Bradley Rogers took a beloved son from his mother, Renee Haley, and a beloved son from his father, Jack Haley. Paul Bradley Rogers is a killer. Regardless of the reasons why, this police officer is a child killer.

Robert Shawn Richardson was Rogers' supervising officer with the Noble Police Department. He was at the scene when the decision was made to place lives at risk to kill a misidentified but stuck harmless black rat snake with a handgun. Rogers had been on the police force about a month, and Richardson had been on the force for more than five years

Reality Check Time..............It does not matter whether the snake was dangerous or not. It does not matter whether the snake was stuck in a birdhouse or not. It does not matter whether the snake was poisonous or not. It does not matter if the snake resembled a black mamba and was spitting blood from it's eyes like a horney toad. Discussion of the species of snakes, statistics of misidentification between serpent species, and degrees of peril encountered by these police officers is simply smoke and mirrors thrown up by a police department and a city government that does not want to accept the truth.

It does not matter whether the officer was a rookie or a 20 year veteran with trophies from Camp Perry and a gold trimmed letter from Ronald Reagan testifying to his history of safe firearm usage. The fact that the shots were fired by a rookie cop under the direct supervision of his more experienced partner is simply more distraction from the central issue. These facts are true, but they are irrelevant.

What is relevant is the town of Noble Oklahoma issued a yahoo a firearm, and instructed him to go preserve the peace. That is irresponsible and negligent. They would not instruct him to drive a police cruiser without first ascertaining he knew how to drive. They would not instruct him to enforce the law without first knowing what the law was. Yet they instructed him to strap on a deadly weapon and allowed him to parade about town as their agent of law and order, without a whit of information in his head on basic firearms safety. None. The city of Noble, Oklahoma allowed that. If they gave him instruction on the safe use of his firearm, he did not retain the instruction, he did not comprehend the instruction, or he just did not give a damn in his quest to be the big bad snake killin' hero of Cleveland County. Simple instruction. Basic safety instruction. Instruction not deemed necessary by the city government of Noble, Oklahoma or the police department of Noble, Oklahoma.

The Four Rules

1. All firearms are always loaded
2. Never let the muzzle of a firearm point at anything you are not willing to destroy
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
4. Be sure of your target and what is behind it

4. Be sure of your target and what is behind it.

What could be more simple? A precious life is over, an innocent child is dead because a town did not care enough to train an officer of the law in the most basic rules of firearms safety. A innocent life is over, an precious child is lost forever because an officer of the law did not care enough to avail himself to the most basic of firearms safety, comprehend and integrate it into his vocation, and follow it before his hand approached his firearm.

A financial judgement against the city of Noble will not bring young Austin back. A prison sentence for the officers involved will not give these parents back their child. A financial judgement will help wake this city government up, make them face reality, and will help insure they invest in basic firearms safety training for their police officers. Prison sentences will insure that the remaining police officers stay awake in the class.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

In light of all the obfuscation regarding this incident, the real point is that NO ONES LIFE WAS IN DANGER! Irregardless of the snakes identity, harmless or Poisonous, the snake was in its natural element and in no direct threat to anyone. Thats really the key point, and as far as Im concerned.....hope the triggerman goes away for awhile. I find the whole LEO's can do no wrong mentality...very troubling in this country.

1:54 AM  
Blogger Who is..... Carteach0? said...


6:12 AM  
Anonymous angus lincoln said...

Will the two officers be forbidden to carry a firearm ever again? Will they ever be able to work in law enforcement again? I hope the hell not? they ought to be compelled to teach others the importance of safe gun handling...that is if anyone would let them

9:22 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

If convicted as felons, they will not be allowed to own or possess firearms.

They will likely teach others they come in contact with gun safety by their very presence.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous harp1034 said...

I don't think that these cops will do any time for this.There will be some kind of plea bargain. Let's just hope that the city and it's insurance company have to pay big time.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Hobie said...

Damn sad all the way around. With a little training that officer could have avoided a paniced reaction and just used a stick. Nobody would have been hurt. But that officer and his supervisor are responsible because they made that decision.

Thanks for putting this out there.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Cliff_1911A1 said...

Little Austin Haley's mother's grief and suffering may never stop... perhaps only time can help. His father's anguish is likely without words to describe.

They have lost a child... and while I never have, I pray everyday that a tragedy such as this escapes me. Still, I know in my heart that this is the worst fear of any parent... and Renee and Jack Haley have indeed had it happen to them.

In a moment brimming with carelessness and void of all consideration of consequence, Brad Rogers and Shawn Richardson fired a shot that took the life of a young child. Worse, it happened right in the hands of Austin Haley's grandfather... and not far from Austin's mother and father.

As a parent and a grandparent, I will say this tragic day delivered to no less than three good people their worst nightmare come true. No doubt, they will spend the remainder of their lives "second guessing" and wondering "what if"... it's an unavoidable consequence.

What were these two police officers thinking? What in Heaven's name compelled them to pull a loaded handgun and fire at a snake that was not even a threat to anyone? Why didn't they just tell the homeowner, "Hey, the snake will come down when it gets good and ready... we would love to dispatch if for you, but using our weapons is completely out of question in such circumstances"?

Only God knows the answer to that question. However, I bet we can fairly well surmise what these two men were not thinking!

1:52 PM  
Blogger Cliff_1911A1 said...

The more I consider what has happened... perhaps it is such that incarceration (a.k.a.- jail time) isn't the best outcome for Brad Rogers or Shawn Richardson.

Here's what I'm thinking...

First, the city of Norman, Oklahoma should be financially responsible. That means a punitive judgement... albeit, it won't bring back Austin Haley's precious life, but it does tend to make bureaucrats take notice and change policy and procedures, which were poorly lacking. Nothing gets their attention any better than cleaning out the city's coffers.

Second, Brad Rogers and Shawn Richardson are both culpable in the same financial regard. Their immediate supervisor and the department chief and the police commissioner and the mayor of the city and their councilmen are also accountable. It simply comes down to negligence- as District Attorney Greg Mashburn has declared, "culpable negligence"... but folks, it's from the top all the way down.

Beyond that, this is what I recommend... Brad Rogers and Shawn Richardson should spend the remainder of their days with a picture of Austin Haley right close... where they have to look at his face every single time they wake up and before they go to bed for the night.

At whatever "police academy" that these two officers attended, there should be a prominently displayed portrait of little Austin Haley with a narrative regarding this tragedy. The events and consequences of that awful moment should be forever more a required and mandantory part of every recruit's training.

Last... I have no idea what the city of Norman, Oklahoma, pays a rookie police officer... but if it's any amount like they do in the city I reside, it isn't much. You get what you pay for!

Now... I'm off my soapbox. I shall go and say a prayer for Austin's mother, father and grandparents and all of this dear young boy's family. I only hope it's received well by the Almighty.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Joseph said...

Sad all the way around. I can see shooting an attacking dog, but all one had to do was walk away from the snake. The use of a firearm to dispatch the snake was still "deadly force", but was not a legitimate use of it.

7:51 PM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

Having a newly-turned 5 year old in my inner circle, I find this story to be wave-upon-wave of real-life horror every time I think of it. The lesson here should be drummed into everyone who handles a gun for sport or profession. Senseless, heartbreaking, and unnecessary, this event was.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous straigghtarrow said...

I doubt very much that either officer will be convicted of a felony.

Either the prosecutor will so botch the trial as to leave acquittal the jury's only recourse, or the charges will be reduced and they will both walk away with a slap on the wrist, a paid vacation and new LEO job somewhere else.

But, I'm cynical. All I can say is, I wasn't born that way.

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they are convicted, they cannot stay in law enforcement, own a gun, or get a job at McDonalds for that matter... This really makes me sick, most people think police officers are well trained, intelligent, and safety minded; this couldn't be further from the truth. Since the NFA of 1934 there have been 2 crimes committed with legally owned class III weapons....both by police officers, yet an average citizen is prohibited in most states from owning one. They are not intelligent, less than 30% have been to college and some didn't finish high school. We need to get on top of our elected officials, and make legislation that would make police AT LEAST as responsible for their actions as us regular joes. It really gets me that I have friends who are getting shot and killed in the middle east to ensure the right of life to people over there, and our government gives these idiots badges and guns to take that right away from children. I would have known better than to shoot at that snake with anything with a rifled barrel when I was five years old...
Didn't these guys have access to a shotgun with some birdshot? At 200 yards Austin would have probably been fine... My heart goes out to this family, I cannot imagine the pain they are going through. I will not forget Austin Haley's name

11:24 PM  
Blogger Andre said...

The only problem in seeking justice by suing a municipality for "punitive" damages is that you're punishing the taxpayers for errors made by two individuals.

It's not as if they're going to take the money from the cops themselves.

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to the family of the child. No one should ever have to endure that much pain, that much heartache-the loss of a child. It's devostating on all who have to endure it.

As for the officers, what is jail time going to solve? I believe them having to live the rest of their life knowing they made a bad judgement call and took an innocent life is something better than jail time.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The process of law has to run it's due course here as a precedent lest the same thing should happen again.

If he has a conscience any punishment meted out to the officer will pale in comparison to the burden of guilt he will bear on his shoulders for the rest of his life.

- Ken from Dublin, Ireland.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a very close friend of the Haley's and Tracy's and find that even though I didn't get to know Austin as well as I should have (my loss), I do know that these families are totally devistated and will be for the rest of their lives (as I know anyone who loses a child is) and whatever they decide about these officers, I will back them up completely. It is taking the family time to forgive but I know that with God's help, they will. I can't say that they don't want any reprocussions against these officers, but I can say that they are not vengeful people, they will let God take care of that.

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey I think they should be put aways for a long time but the one that pulled the trigger didnt want to so I dont think he should have anything to do with getting in trouble he was ordered to pull the trigger he tried to say no but the other cop wouldnt let him. It was an accident but people do have to get punished or other people will go around saying I was just trying to shoot a snake but it is a really sad topic and I do wish the family good and I hope they will understand he is probably better off outside a world where people kill eachother and attack he they shouldnt mourn him for ever although I wouldnt blame them if they did I would be crushed if anything like that happened to me.

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think it was an accident but it should not mean that the parents have to suffer for the cops did with the snake being in the birdhouse it would of got out and left but yet they dicided to shoot the snake in a neighborhood were there are lots of people around and if i was that cop i would of ignored the cheif and left i wouldn't of shot at it when there could be so many problems that could go wrong so i think they should be put away for life since they killed someone i dont think they should live in this world with us so just lock them up! and i know shawn richardson he worked at our public libaray for a really long time.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous James Haley said...

Thanks for posting this blog, but I felt I should update you on the situation. The Assistant DA for Cleveland Co., OK has offered both officers charged in the case a sweetheart plea bargain deal. They will be fined $1000, lose their law enforcement license, and be put on probation. No jail time will be served, and most appalling of all, after two years have passed, they will be able under OK law to have the offense expunged from their records. This means that they could even return to law enforcement.

This deal was made without any notification of the family and has not even been reported by all but one local news outlet. The state of Oklahoma is not only going to hide this, but they are going to profit from it by extracting blood money from my cousin's killers.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand that the family was informed of the plea bargain by the prosecutor, just not in agreement. There is a difference. It is nice that the Judge was able to enhance the plea somewhat. My heart goes out to the family.

7:38 PM  

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