Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said Wednesday he will not file charges against two Oklahoma City police officers accused of excessive force by the family of a man who died in police custody.
Robin Leander Howard, 57, died in June after a physical confrontation with patrol officers Jeff Coffey and Doug Grady.
Prater told family members during a midafternoon meeting there was not enough evidence to charge the officers with a crime, but stopped short of saying the officers' actions were justified.
“There's no evidence that the officers involved in the arrest of Robin Howard committed a criminal act, therefore no charges will be filed against the officers,” he said.
The family's attorney, David Slane, said he wasn't surprised by the district attorney's decision.
“I think he's acting on what limited information he has,” Slane said. “I'm still very disappointed in the way the police department handled this matter from the beginning, and I'm not sure I accept their explanations of what happened.”
Family members, wearing T-shirts that read “Expose the cover-up” with a picture of Howard, claim the department failed to notify them about his death until they had time to “hide” what happened.
“We have to do everything in our power to uncover the cover-up,” said Deidre Hill, Howard's sister.
Prater met with family members for nearly an hour Wednesday. He said he spoke with Chief Bill Citty about his decision and will mail an official letter to the police department.
Prater said his office will reopen the investigation “if additional evidence comes to light.”
“We don't ever truly close these cases,” he said.
Police department officials, including Citty, declined to comment.
The chief had previously said the department “dropped the ball” because an officer assigned to notify Howard's family of his death failed to do so until four days had passed.
The state medical examiner listed the manner of death as homicide and the cause of death as acute pneumonia caused by blunt force trauma to the chest, according to an autopsy report. Howard's autopsy report lists numerous injuries, including several broken ribs and a badly fractured left arm.
Officers used a knee-strike to the back to subdue Howard, which may have caused the injuries in question, Slane said.
Kimberly Turner accused police of beating her brother to death “over a traffic stop” and then deliberately keeping his family “in the dark.”
“We feel like the police were his judge, jury and executioner,” said Turner, wiping tears from her eyes.
Slane said the family will continue to fight for justice in Howard's death, adding that he will ask the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether Howard's civil rights were violated.
Slane also said he may ask the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate the actions of the Oklahoma City Police Department. The attorney said he is also considering suing the police department and the hospital where Howard was treated.
The family, he said, has reached out to civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.
“I think the family may never know what happened,” Slane said.
According to a police dispatch log, a patrol car tried to stop Howard in his mother's Lincoln Town Car about 1:30 p.m. June 19.
Officers said Howard, 54, led them on a chase that ended in the 1400 block of Monticello Court, about 150 yards from the small home he shared with his mother.
What happened after police caught up with Howard is not entirely clear, although his attorney said he was told Howard resisted arrest.
Coffey and Grady, who were involved in the altercation with Howard, were placed on restricted duty after the incident. A department spokesman declined to comment Wednesday on their status.