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Oklahoma City police 'dropped the ball' in death notification, police chief says

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty says the department “dropped the ball” in notifying the family of Robin Leander Howard, who died in June after a scuffle with police.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: August 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm •  Published: August 14, 2012

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said the department “dropped the ball” in notifying the family of Robin Leander Howard, who died in June after a physical confrontation with two patrol officers.

Howard's family members claim the department didn't notify them about his death until four days after the fact.

The state medical examiner released an autopsy report Monday, listing the cause of death as acute pneumonia caused by blunt force trauma to the chest.

Kimberly Turner, the 54-year-old man's sister, questioned Citty during Tuesday's Oklahoma City Council meeting, blasting the department for its handling of her brother's death and the aftermath.

“They've not communicated with us … the officers that are involved are still working, and it has been ruled a homicide,” Turner said. “We don't understand why. We want to know why.”

Citty said the department is investigating all aspects of Howard's case, trying to see what went wrong.

“The police department really did drop the ball because we had an officer who was given the responsibility of making notification,” the police chief said. “He did make a report that he was unable to make that notification, or find the next of kin, and then didn't notify any supervisors that would follow up on it.”

The lapse wasn't discovered until Howard died and the case was forwarded to the department's homicide division to investigate.

Citty said homicide detectives quickly discovered the error and notified Howard's family.

“We take that very seriously … and we dropped the ball on that and take full responsibility for that,” he said.

Turner also claimed that police didn't tell her family that Howard was even in the hospital, despite the fact that an Oklahoma City patrol cruiser took him to Integris Southwest Medical Center.

“At no point were we notified that he was in the hospital,” Turner said. “We didn't even know he was in there until Detective Benavides contacted us June the 28th and said that he died.”

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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