MOORE — The city’s police chief Tuesday defended the actions of officers being investigated after the death of a Norman man who was tackled and handcuffed early Saturday in the Warren Theatre parking lot.
“I know these officers, and I don’t believe there was any ill will,” Moore Police Chief Jerry Stillings said in a news conference.
Three Moore police officers and two off-duty game wardens were involved in the scuffle with Luis Rodriguez, 44. One of the officers and the game wardens were working security for the theater.
Rodriguez’s wife, Nair, caught some of the incident on video on her cellphone, which was confiscated by police. Though the phone was released to her Tuesday afternoon, she hasn’t shared the video to the media on the advice of her attorney.
Stillings said he didn’t see anything inappropriate in the video. The officers, who are on administrative leave, have not been named. The game wardens have been allowed to continue working while an investigation is conducted, said Bill Hale, assistant chief of law enforcement for the state Wildlife Conservation Department.
“No one in this police department relishes these kinds of moments,” Stillings said. “I know it’s a difficult job they do.”
Once his department completes its investigation, it will be referred to the Cleveland County district attorney’s office. He encouraged any other witnesses to the incident to come forward.
Nair Rodriguez says the officers brutally beat her husband and has been publicly demanding justice.
The public, too, has been looking for answers.
A post on the Moore Police Department’s Facebook page offering condolences to the Rodriguez family has generated hundreds of comments.
In an interview with The Oklahoman on Monday, she and her 19-year-old daughter, Luinahi, described how Luis Rodriguez was knocked to the ground, hit and kneed by the officers after he didn’t stop and provide his ID.
What started as a quiet family evening at the theater watching “RoboCop” escalated once Nair Rodriguez got in a heated argument with her daughter and slapped the girl in the parking lot, Nair Rodriguez said. The five officers already were at the theater dealing with two patrons who passed out drunk in an auditorium, police said.
A bystander who witnessed the argument alerted an officer, so when the officers approached the family, all they knew was they were checking on a domestic incident, something they are obligated to investigate, Stillings said.
They approached Luis Rodriguez and asked for ID.
Nair Rodriguez describes her husband as a peacekeeper, and he was the one who was trying to calm her and prevent her from driving away angry. He tried to bypass the officers, and they reacted.
Stillings said Luis Rodriguez took a defensive stance and clenched his fists when officers tried to detain him. It took all five officers to take him down, and pepper spray was used at one point.
“It took two sets of handcuffs linked due to his large size,” Stillings said. An independent witness described the officers’ actions as “trying to get an out-of-control person under control.”
An ambulance was already at the theater, and Rodriguez was taken to Moore Medical Center. He was alive during the transport, a spokeswoman for Midwest Regional Emergency Medical Service said.
He died at the hospital. The medical examiner’s office has not released his cause of death.
When asked about his health, Nair Rodriguez said her husband suffered from high blood pressure and sleep apnea, and had recently been treated for an injured ankle.
Nair Rodriguez says she’s been willing to do interviews with the media because it’s the only way her husband’s death won’t be in vain.
“Right now, I feel more afraid to call police or have police around me than probably a criminal,” she said.
She said her husband was not armed with a knife or gun that night. He was an electrician, and the couple moved from Puerto Rico in 1992.
Luis Rodriguez was big in size but had a “teddy bear heart,” she said.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Luis and Nair Rodriguez immigrated from Puerto Rico.