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Family seeks answers after man dies following use of force during arrest by Oklahoma City police

A man who was arrested after a vehicle chase died while in Oklahoma City police custody, officials said Monday.
by Juliana Keeping Modified: July 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm •  Published: July 3, 2012

An Oklahoma City family wants to know what happened to their loved one who died in police custody and why they didn't learn about it until four days after his death.

Robin Leander Howard, 54, died June 23, four days after officers used force to arrest him. Police reported the death to the public Monday.

The Oklahoma City police chief said a nine-day delay in reporting the man's death, while not typical, was not the result of a police cover-up.

“There's nothing you could hide; there's nothing you can change within a nine-day period,” Police Chief Bill Citty said.

Kimberly Turner, Howard's sister, said the family had been trying to locate Howard for several days — before and after he died. They were not told that he was in the hospital after police arrested him.

“A detective told us four days after he died that he had passed,” Turner said.

Family members called various agencies over several days trying to locate Howard, Turner said.

“We thought he was in jail,” she said. “We kept calling; they kept telling us he was in another county.”

Turner said once the family learned about his death, police refused to turn over an incident report, citing an ongoing investigation.

About the arrest

Howard led police on a short car chase June 19 that ended in the 1400 block of Monticello Court. Turner said the last time a family member saw him alive was earlier that day.

His vehicle had hit another car and a pole before it stopped. Then Howard fled on foot.

Four officers were present when force was used against Howard, but only two officers took part in restraining him when he resisted arrest, Capt. Dexter Nelson said Monday. The use of force included the officers' hands and feet, but Nelson declined to elaborate. He did not think a Taser was used. Howard was unarmed, police said.

The department is investigating Howard's death as a homicide, Citty said.

The officers involved were four-year veteran Jeff Coffey and six-year veteran Doug Grady.

Police did not name the two officers who witnessed the incident.

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by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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