A veteran police officer said he was just 7 years old when he conspired to commit murder.
Retired Nashville police Lt. Mark Wynn said he and his 12-year-old brother were afraid for their mother’s safety when they concocted and carried out a desperate plan to kill their abusive stepfather.
Instead, “a divine hand” foiled the brothers’ scheme, Wynn said Wednesday during the Engaging Men’s Breakfast in downtown Oklahoma City.
The breakfast, held at the Cox Convention Center, was hosted by the YWCA of Oklahoma City as a way to raise men’s awareness about the many ways domestic violence affects families and communities.
Domestic violence is a public safety issue, Janet Peery, chief executive officer of the YWCA, told a group of about 400 people who gathered for the event. She said 1 in 4 women in Oklahoma will be a victims of domestic violence, based on statistics.
“This is happening in all of our neighborhoods. This is happening to someone you know,” Peery said.
Wynn brought that message home with his emotionally charged story of growing up fearing for his mother’s life.
He said he was the youngest of five children and moved with his mother from Tennessee to West Texas after his parents’ marriage broke down and she met and married her second husband. He told the audience that his stepfather was cruel and abusive to his mother, beating her so badly that she suffered two miscarriages. At one point, the stepfather pushed her out of a moving car.
Wynn said he and one of his older brothers plotted to stab their mother’s abuser as he lay in a drunken stupor, but eventually decided to poison the man by pouring insecticide into his drink of choice.
Wynn said his stepfather drank the entire concoction as they waited for him to die — but he didn’t.
“For the grace of God and a strong mother, I made it out and spent my career in law enforcement instead of 25 years in prison,” he said Wednesday.
Wynn said he was drawn to his career because his father and grandfather were police officers and because he knew he would have opportunities to help victims of domestic violence like his mother. He said in 1995, within the Nashville Police Department, he helped create the largest domestic violence unit in the nation.
Wynn, who now is a trainer and consultant on issues of domestic and sexual violence, said people working with families in crisis know things that they didn’t know when he and his family were experiencing troubled times. For example, he said they now know that leaving a violent relationship is not an event, it’s a process, that’s why shelters like the one offered by the YWCA, are so important.
He thanked metro-area men for attending Wednesday’s breakfast and urged them to talk to others in their communities about domestic violence.
Speaking in particular to law enforcement officers in the group, he said four of his fellow police officers — his friends — were killed in the line of duty in volatile domestic violence situations.
Wynn said supporting agencies like the YWCA that offer help and hope to families in crisis is a way to not only support domestic violence victims but also the men and women in law enforcement who work to protect them.
“You can not separate the support of a victim and support of your officers in this state,” he said.
“Think about how you can support all these wonderful efforts in your city. By doing that, you are going to make the law keep its promise and you’re going to save a life.”