NORMAN — One of the former police officers found guilty in the 2007 shooting death of a 5-year-old Noble boy has had his record expunged despite the violent nature of the crime, a fact that troubles Austin Haley's parents who fear he may one day take another job in law enforcement.
Jack Haley, the boy's father, said he is surprised a judge granted the expungement given that Paul Bradley Rogers was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter, a violent felony. When records are expunged, they are essentially deleted from general public view.
Rogers, who was still in training as a Noble police officer when he accidentally shot the boy in the head in August 2007, received a deferred sentence.
He did not serve jail time, nor did Robert Shawn Richardson, who was Rogers' supervisor the day Austin Haley was shot dead.
Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said the expungement is legal because Rogers, now 40, agreed to have his sentence deferred shortly before he was sentenced in March 2008.
Mashburn, who was not aware of Rogers' expungement until Monday, said there is a provision in Oklahoma law that allows offenders who successfully complete the terms of a deferred sentence to seek an expungement, even if the crime is violent in nature.
Attempts to reach Rogers for comment were not successful.
Haley said he wants people to know that Rogers' record has been expunged.
“We want to make it as public as possible,” Haley said about the expungement. “We don't want him getting another position in law enforcement anywhere. Ever.”
Jack Haley said that Rogers and Richardson, 35, received “special treatment” throughout the criminal proceedings related to his son's shooting death and accused Mashburn of going easy on members of law enforcement who wind up in the court system.
“If it were you or me or any other civilian, they wouldn't give us this chance,” Jack Haley said. “That's the reason Greg Mashburn has the (police unions) on his side ... because they know they can get sweet deals whenever they make mistakes.”
Mashburn said both Rogers and Richardson had to surrender their police certification at sentencing. He also said the kind of expungement Rogers was granted will not completely erase the former officer's connection to Austin Haley's death.
“Law enforcement will still have access to all these records,” Mashburn said. “Obviously, that would include any potential law enforcement employers.”
At the time of Austin Haley's shooting death, the former Noble officers had been called to a rural property to help an animal control officer remove a snake from a birdhouse.
Court records show that Rogers fired two shots at the snake, which was hanging from the birdhouse when they arrived, after Richardson gave him the go-ahead.
One of the bullets struck Austin Haley, who had been fishing with his grandfather at a nearby pond moments earlier, in the back of the head.
An affidavit filed indicates that a neighbor told Rogers and Richardson there was “nothing in the heavily wooded area” where the pond is located.
Jack Haley said his family has healed since his son's death but admitted Rogers' expungement has reopened old wounds.
“We want everybody to know that we still have forgiveness ... but this is no longer about forgiveness,” he said. “It's about public safety and the fact that we don't want these guys to be officers again.”