The Rev. Jesse Jackson joined more than 100 protesters Tuesday in requesting Oklahoma City police reopen a criminal investigation into the death of a man who died while in custody.
On the steps of city hall, after a short march from the police headquarters, the civil rights pioneer and other speakers called the investigation into Robin Leander Howard’s death a cover-up worth a congressional civil rights inquiry.
“Something does not pass the smell test of justice,” Jackson told the crowd, many of them carrying signs and wearing shirts bearing Howard’s picture. “None of us are safe until all of us are, and you are next if we don’t stop it.”
Howard, 54, died in June of last year four days after a physical confrontation with Oklahoma City patrol officers in which his ribs and an arm were broken.
The state medical examiner listed Howard’s manner of death as homicide; the cause was acute pneumonia caused by blunt force trauma to the chest.
But the police officers were not charged after a criminal investigation by the department and an inquiry by District Attorney David Prater.
Police spokesman Capt. Dexter Nelson said Police Chief Bill Citty met with the family several times to review records of the incident and that an administrative investigation — with assistance from the FBI — is ongoing.
Howard died after fleeing the police — first in a vehicle and then on foot — and then resisting arrest, Nelson said.
“The chief said he’s confident the officers used only the force necessary to take Mr. Howard into custody,” Nelson said. “Jesse Jackson coming to town only got one side of the story; he didn’t meet with the police, he only met with the family and the family attorney.”
The department is now wrapping up an administrative investigation and will consider a formal complaint filed by the Howard family in their determination, Nelson said.
The patrol officers were initially put on restrictive duty immediately following Howard’s death, but are now back to full duty, he said.
Oklahoma City attorney David Slane, who is representing the Howard family and organized the Jackson trip, said the family wants to see the patrol officers disciplined and wants access to all records of the incident and subsequent investigations.
“The next step is yet to be seen,” he said Tuesday. “We need to see everything that happened to Robin Howard, what Robin Howard had to say. Chief Citty has shared some of that with us ... but he knows a lot more and there’s a lot more out there, and then we can decide the next step.”