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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

Edwards denied that he and his deputies huddled up to conspire against Stephenson but said that police work involves briefings at crime scenes.

Conflicting reports

Witnesses, however, said that Stephenson's Jeep never struck the deputy.

O'Ryan Newton, who was driving to work with his wife the morning of the incident, told attorneys during a deposition that he was two cars behind Stephenson when he saw the deputy shoot out the Jeep's tire.

Newton and his wife both denied that Stephenson's Jeep made contact with the deputy.

“I can say with certainty that that vehicle never struck the deputy as far as I could tell,” Newton said. “Just based on how the deputy was moving and reacting to the vehicle as it went through the intersection, I don't see any point in time where there would have been contact with the deputy.”

Newton's wife, Chrislyn, also denied that Todd was struck by the Jeep, saying the vehicle passed by the deputy with “approximately two to three feet” to spare.

Newton also said that Thompson, one of the investigating deputies, tried to “steer” him to making statements to corroborate Todd's version of events.

“I felt like Ken Thompson was kind of trying to steer me towards thinking or saying the deputy was struck,” Newton said. “He didn't come out directly in any way, but I think that there was insinuation towards that.”

Newton said Thompson “repeatedly” told him the deputy was struck with the Jeep during questioning.

“It was my impression by him repeatedly coming back to that point that he was hoping I would make a change to my story or my account,” Newton said.

Stephenson eventually was arrested and taken to the Canadian County sheriff's office for questioning.

Instead of being sent through the normal intake process, Stephenson was allowed to wait in an office area so he could be booked without having to wait in a cell.

And instead of being booked for assault with a deadly weapon, Stephenson was cited for failing to obey a police officer and inattentive driving.

“We charged him,” Edwards said. “The DA apparently declined or never did pursue charges against him.”

Edwards, who is running for re-election and faces a former Canadian County deputy in November's general election, said he stands behind Todd's story and still believes the deputy was struck by the Jeep.

“At the time it happened, we had no witnesses, in terms of absolutely verifying that he was or was not hit,” Edwards said. “The deputy did have a transfer of dirt from the vehicle onto his trousers and he received trauma to his leg which he was treated by a doctor for.”

Edwards said he is displeased with the outcome of the lawsuit. He said Stephenson and his attorneys were initially seeking “upwards to $1 million.”

“Very minute compared to what they first started at,” the sheriff said. “I think it was originally $800,000.”

Edwards said the settlement, regardless of how “minute” it may have been, was too much. He said the $19,250 was basically to cover the damage to Stephenson's vehicle and the young man's legal fees.

“It was expedient to all the parties concerned to settle it and get it behind us,” Edwards said. “But if it would've been up to me, we wouldn't have settled or paid the suspect a penny.

“I don't believe in rewarding anybody for breaking the law.”