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Bounty hunters look for bail jumpers, fugitives on the streets of Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City bounty hunters face variety of circumstances in bringing fugitives back into justice system.
by Matt Dinger Modified: May 18, 2013 at 12:39 am •  Published: May 20, 2013

They call them bounty hunters. What they hunt is people.

People who have failed to make court appearances and once again are wanted by the justice system.

It is the responsibility of the bail bondsman to return the fugitive to the justice system, and that's where bounty hunters — or bail agents — come into play.

Sometimes all it takes is a knock on the first door. Other times, it takes days of tracking and planning. And some days, it's a fight.

‘The Hunter'

Ryan Lopez is the founder and backbone of Pursuit Team OKC, a four-man operation that tracks down, snares and returns fugitives to jails in the counties where they're wanted.

In a field that lacks licensing and is encumbered by little regulation, Lopez is as professional as they come.

He stands just over 6 feet tall. On the job, he wears a tactical vest with the tools of his trade — including pistol and Taser — secured to its front. Even without the vest, Lopez is formidable. He bears a considerable amount of muscle on his solid frame and walks and talks with the confidence of a fighter.

It could be because he has been reining in bail jumpers since he was a college student and has had a fair share of scuffles with them. Or it may be because he has more than 25 mixed martial arts bouts and a couple of boxing matches under his belt. Inside the cage he's known as “The Hunter.”

An easy catch

It's late in the afternoon May 7 when the Pursuit Team has its first target of the day: A man wanted for failure to appear on a controlled dangerous substance possession charge.

The address on the bail bond is the first stop.

Lopez and Eric London, his right-hand man, take the steps leading up to the second-story apartment. Tjay Nikkel and Mike Parsons run around back and keep their eyes on the windows. It wouldn't be the easiest escape route — and the risk of injury from jumping down onto the parking lot is there — but as Parsons says, some guys will do just about anything not to go back to jail.

Lopez pounds on the door and announces himself in a voice that echoes off nearby buildings like a loudspeaker. If anyone is inside, they definitely heard him.

A minute or so later, a man opens the door. It's their target.

A television inside the apartment is tuned to an episode of “Cops,” but the rest of the apartment is clear and they allow the man — Fred — to lock up before being cuffed and put in the back of the team's Dodge Charger.

He's polite and apologetic, and makes no excuses or attempt to talk himself out of capture.

“I'd say half of them are like that ... Most of them don't fight,” Lopez said.

“We get at least one every day. Ideally, it's more like two or three,” Nikkel said.

The team members' demeanor immediately changes. The shock-and-awe aggression dissipates as quickly as it appeared. Some concern is shown for their bounty's comfort, and they give him no more hassle. An easy $200 bounty that took only moments to snag.

“Most of them don't deserve to be treated badly,” Lopez said.

The long hunt

“About 90 percent of our files, I know where they could be or where they're going to be before I ever leave the house,” Lopez said.

But Christopher Arterberry is not one of those cases. Arterberry, 42, is a felon accused of threatening to blow up Integris Southwest Medical Center hospital while he was visiting a sick relative, court records show.

He was charged April 4 in Oklahoma County District Court with making a bomb threat and a warrant was issued for his arrest. According to the probable cause affidavit, Arterberry told hospital workers that he “hated Oklahoma” and he was “going to blow this (expletive) up” after he received some bad news about the relative's condition during a March 8 visit.

Arterberry's extensive criminal background includes multiple cases in which he was either a suspect or was arrested on complaints of domestic violence, homicide, pointing a firearm, rape and injuring a child, the investigator reported.

Pursuit Team OKC was tasked with his capture by a local bondsman.

“We have to chase all of them when we're hired by the bondsman, and we have to be hired by the bondsman. We don't get to pick and choose,” London said.

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by Matt Dinger
Court Reporter
Matt Dinger was born and raised in Oklahoma City. He has worked in OPUBCO's News and Information Center since 2006, and has been assigned to the breaking news desk since its formation in fall 2008. He specializes in crime and police reporting.
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