GUTHRIE — A Guthrie police lieutenant accused of arresting his wife's ex-husband for no good reason following the Mumford and Sons concert last month has faced similar allegations in the recent past, The Oklahoman has learned.
Lt. Mark Bruning is accused of arresting the ex-husband following the concert and falsely alleging the man was drunk in public.
Just last year, he was sued by a local bar owner who accused him and other police officers of harassing customers and bar staff, causing serious financial hardship to the business.
Bruning is still employed by the Guthrie Police Department, although it's not clear whether he is on active duty or suspended.
Kyle White said he was leaving the Mumford and Sons concert last month when he ran into Bruning, who at that time was engaged to White's ex-wife.
“He was screaming at some other people when we walked up on him,” White said Friday. “When he saw me, he started hollering at me. We had turned to walk away when ... he just basically said, ‘You're drunk, you're going to jail.'”
Attempts to reach Bruning for comment were not successful.
A woman who witnessed the incident involving Bruning and White said the officer's behavior was clearly out of line. The woman, who did not want her named used, said numerous people saw Bruning arrest White.
“He was totally wrong in doing what he did,” she said. “Everybody standing there watching it knew it was wrong. It was that blatant. (White) was obviously completely sober.”
White, 29, said Bruning had been harassing him for several months by the time the Mumford and Sons concert rolled round.
“He would send me threatening text messages and he followed our company trucks around on several occasions,” he said. “He's known for doing this in town. I'm not the first person.”
Indeed, Bruning has faced similar allegations in recent years.
In May 2012, bar owner Fazal Khan filed a lawsuit against Bruning and three other police officers, claiming the men acted to harass and intimidate the customers of Halftime Bar and Grill by “unlawful use of police force and presence.”
The lawsuit claims the targeted harassment began in the fall of 2011 as Khan and his wife were going through a divorce. Khan's present ex-wife is the sister of Brian Crumb, who was a Guthrie police officer at the time.
Crumb was named in the lawsuit along with Bruning, Police Chief Damon Devereaux and officer Erik Lamb.
The suit filed by Khan claims the officers ramped up their harassing behavior when complaints were made to “multiple highest decision-makers” within the city of Guthrie's administration.
“One of the more disturbing things the defendants have done is attempted to have an inebriated person make a false statement against (Khan),” the lawsuit states.
“Thus, (the) defendants' actions have been spiteful, calculated and malicious, and include unlawful, illegal use of police power to commit a conspiracy to violate (Khan's) rights.”
In the suit, Khan claimed the officers made “false arrests” during the time frame in question, although specific incidents are not documented in court records.
Court records show the lawsuit filed by Khan was dismissed in July 2012 but that it can be refiled in the future.
“Plaintiffs have had to shut down the bar and grill due to continued harassment by police and loss of income, and have chosen not to litigate at this time due to limited funds,” an attorney for Khan wrote in a court filing.
Ticket thrown out
Following his run-in with Bruning after the concert, White said he was taken to the Logan County jail and booked into the facility for the night. He said several police officers at the jail apologized to him for Bruning's behavior.
“It was that obvious that I wasn't supposed to be there,” White said.
Shortly after his release from jail, the ticket written to White for being drunk in public was thrown out.
A letter from the Guthrie city attorney did not give a reason for the dismissal, said Eric Cotton, White's attorney.
“It just basically said they would not be prosecuting the case,” Cotton said.
Since his arrest and the start of his public feud with his ex-wife's new husband, White said, “it's been unbelievable how many people have messaged me about this.”
“Everybody in town hates him ... he's a bully and he's been doing this to other people for years,” White said. “So, now he's freaking out because nobody has stood up to him before.”
Future in question
According to local media reports, Bruning is claiming he has been fired from the Guthrie Police Department, but City Manager Sereniah Breland said that is not the case.
“He is still employed by the Guthrie Police Department,” Breland said. “If he was fired, I would know it.”
Requests for information made by The Oklahoman to determine whether Bruning has been disciplined during his employment with the Guthrie Police Department were not fulfilled Friday.
Breland would not say whether Bruning has been disciplined before.
In recent years, Bruning has served as the Guthrie Police Department's public information officer. He also held a high-profile position as a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is administered by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
During an interview with a local TV reporter that aired in February, Bruning talked about his dedication to tracking down sexual predators who use the Internet to victimize children.
“I feel strongly about what we're doing, so as many as I can get, I'm going to do,” Bruning said. “The people that we go after are the people that will come after our kids, so that's why it's important to me to go get these people.”