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

Arterberry eludes them for about two weeks, vacating locations where he was spotted before they arrive. Tips are chased, surveillance is placed and knock-and-talks are employed to try to roust him out of hiding.

“Pretty much all we had was the co-signer's address. We hit that house multiple times, so we were trying to burn that bridge for him,” London said. “He was laying really, really, really low.”

Then they got lucky.

On May 10, an informant spots Arterberry at the Buy For Less at NW 36 and MacArthur Boulevard. The team gets into position. London spots him, radios to the other members and closes in.

“He started to the north, and that's when Ryan blocked him in with the car. He thought about running for about a split second, but once he saw Tjay and Ryan get out of the car, he thought better of it and lay down,” London said.

“It's rewarding, especially picking people up for drug trafficking or child abuse. That's better than getting paid. You're getting scum off the street. But, at the end of the day, they're still people too,” Lopez said.

As seen on TV

The bounty hunter image conjured by American television tracks the last kind of fugitive — the one who runs or hides.

And there are plenty of those, Lopez says.

They suspect their collar on May 14 is one of them.

The team tracks Wesley Baker, 36, to a pawnshop near Britton Road and Western Avenue. Two of them are in one car, and the other pair in a second vehicle. They watch Baker and his girlfriend as they walk back to his home.

Lopez decides not to try to snatch him along Britton Road, fearing he may bolt into traffic. But the neighborhood provides too many escape routes as well, so the team eyeballs him walking down his street and into his home from a distance.

Since they have seen him enter the residence, they can breach it — or go inside — to retrieve him.

Nikkel and Parsons take their positions in the backyard. London and Lopez take the front.

Lopez pounds on the door, giving Baker a chance to surrender. The offer is declined.

So Lopez and London storm the back entrance of the home, clearing the back part of the house quickly and cornering the woman in the front room of the house. A knife on the table is flung out of grasp, and the pair head to the darkened second story.

They test walls for hollow places, look under beds and behind closed doors. About five minutes of searching ends fruitlessly. But they know Baker is inside and the other members of the team radio to confirm that he has not fled the home.

London begins scouring a closet foot-by-foot, stamping down on blankets, clothing and other items that are piled a few feet deep.

He suddenly spots Baker and starts screaming. Lopez rushes toward them. They quickly apprehend and handcuff Baker, leading him downstairs and giving him a moment to say goodbye to his girlfriend before heading to the Oklahoma County jail.

At the jail, he is allowed a final cigarette in the parking lot before being booked on warrants stemming from failure to appear in court on charges of possession of a stolen vehicle, obstructing an officer and possession of a controlled dangerous substance.

“There's nothing bad I can say about these guys. They've done their job, and they've done it well,” Baker said.

The law

In the state of Oklahoma, no licensing is required to bounty hunt, but it does require the authorization of the bondsman who holds the bond for the fugitive.

“The law says you've got to have a certified copy of the bond,” said Dudley Goolsby Jr., president of the Oklahoma Bondsman Association.

“A bond agent makes a contract with the state and with the defendant. That's where the bondman's authority comes from. There's usually something in there about bounty hunting, finding people and arresting them,” Goolsby said.

“A bounty hunter is not in the business to serve warrants. That's reserved for police officers,” he said.

Oklahoma City police Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow said bounty hunters don't cause law enforcement problems.

“I've never heard anything negative from our end, that we've ever had any sort of an issue with them,” she said. “I think we work fairly well with them.”

Lopez says that they inform police about lengthy surveillance operations and other circumstances which might require their involvement.

He said he enjoys the freedom of his job.

“The only way I can get fired is if I don't catch people,” Lopez said.


NewsOK.com has disabled the comments for this article.
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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