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Settled lawsuit against Canadian County sheriff leaves questions unanswered

A recently settled lawsuit against Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards and two of his deputies reveals that details of a 2010 officer-involved shooting remain sketchy at best, The Oklahoman has learned.
by Andrew Knittle Published: October 8, 2012

A recently settled lawsuit involving Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards and two of his deputies reveals that details of a 2010 officer-involved shooting remain sketchy at best — even two years later.

Edwards, the deputies and the Canadian County Board of Commissioners were sued in April 2011 by Yukon resident Marcus Stephenson. The lawsuit was quickly moved to federal court, where it was settled in late April of this year, The Oklahoman learned.

Stephenson's suit claimed that his civil rights had been violated after an altercation with Canadian County deputy Andrew Todd, near an accident scene at Interstate 40 and Czech Hall Road.

Todd would claim he was struck by Stephenson's vehicle and fired a shot at the passing four-wheel-drive Jeep because he felt — at least at that moment — that Stephenson was trying to “run me down.”

In the lawsuit, Stephenson claimed that he was trying to make a left turn and thought that the deputy had motioned him through the intersection.

The complaints against Edwards, deputy Ken Thompson and the board of commissioners were deemed insufficient by a judge, but one complaint against Todd was upheld.

According to Denny Butler, claims and litigation manager for the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma, Stephenson and his attorneys were paid $19,250 to settle the lawsuit.

Butler said the cash was paid to settle an excessive force complaint against Todd, “for firing his gun at the vehicle.”

When reached by phone, Stephenson, 28, declined to comment on the case due to the terms of the settlement.

Edwards, who called Todd one of his finest subordinates, said no disciplinary action was taken against the deputy. He said he still believes that Todd made the proper decision when he used “deadly force” to halt the Jeep driven by Stephenson.

“He was cleared of any excessive use of force ... he acted within the scope of our policy,” Edwards said. “He responded with deadly force after being assaulted by deadly force.

“These weapons we carry aren't for looks,” he said.

But an examination of court records reveals a case filled with conflicting statements, and the lawsuit itself alleges improprieties by the sheriff and deputies.

According to the lawsuit, Stephenson and Todd met near the interchange in the early morning hours of Oct. 19, 2010.

Todd was directing traffic near the scene of a car accident, court records show, when Stephenson attempted to make a left-hand turn in front of the deputy.

What happened next depends on who you ask.

Todd, who was deposed as part of the lawsuit, said he was commanding Stephenson to continue straight and that the Yukon man ignored his orders. The deputy said Stephenson's Jeep struck him on the left knee as the vehicle made the turn, which caused him to fire his weapon in self-defense.

One of Stephenson's tires was blown out after the shooting and Todd admitted the young man was visibly shaken following the gunplay.

Stephenson, who has no criminal record in Oklahoma, would claim in the lawsuit that he simply misunderstood Todd's hand gestures and that he had no intention of threatening or assaulting the deputy.

According to the lawsuit, Stephenson then was allowed to call his brother-in-law to help change his tire. It also claims that the young man joked around with the deputy before Edwards arrived on the scene.

Stephenson, who is described simply as “Plaintiff” in the lawsuit, claimed the mood changed when Edwards arrived on the scene.

“During this period, the deputies now joined by Defendant Edwards, began to huddle and converse among themselves,” the lawsuit states. “Shortly thereafter, Defendant Edwards approached Plaintiff, stated that Plaintiff brushed up against Defendant Todd ... and advised Plaintiff that he was under arrest for assault and battery with a deadly weapon.”

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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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