Share “Shooting tops area stories”

By Jennifer Griswold Published: January 1, 2008
An accidental police shooting that left a 5-year-old Noble boy dead and a community in mourning topped area news stories in 2007.

Austin Haley was struck by a bullet Aug. 3 while fishing with his grandfather near his home. Noble police officers had responded to a call about a snake in a birdhouse in the neighborhood and tried to kill it by shooting at it.

Local and state investigations into the shooting were launched. Felony second-degree murder charges were filed Sept. 7 against officer Paul Bradley Rogers, 34, and Sgt. Robert Shawn Richardson, 29. Both are scheduled to appear in court March 10 for preliminary hearing.

Austin's family is working on a private memorial at the pond where he was shot, and the city is building a public memorial at a children's water park. The park is scheduled to open in the spring.

Other top stories of the year included a mass firing in the Noble Police Department in October after city investigations into the shooting and a drunken driving incident involving another officer were completed, a funeral home drug bust that ended in the director facing drug and embezzlement charges, and heavy summer rains.

Here's a recap of the area's top stories:

Noble officers fired
The Noble Police Department took a number of hits in 2007. Under scrutiny after the shooting, Police Chief Ben Daves was fired by City Manager Bob Wade.

The three officers involved in the shooting — Rogers, Richardson and Michelle Key — also were fired in October. A fourth officer, Bobby Brent Sirpless, was fired later that month after he was charged with driving under the influence.

Deputies with the Cleveland County Sheriff's Department have helped cover shifts while Noble city officials search for candidates to fill the vacant positions. An interim police chief has been appointed, and a permanent replacement is expected to be named shortly after the first of the year, Wade said.

Funeral home drug bust
A drug raid at a Purcell funeral home on Feb. 13 led to the arrest of six people on drug-related charges, including the home's owner, Charles "Mike” Damet.

Methamphetamine, bags of marijuana and prescription drugs were found during the early morning raid of the Yoakum-Damet Funeral Home. Police said the funeral home was being used as a front for Damet's drug business.

As the investigation into Damet's business continued, the Oklahoma Funeral Board revoked his operating licenses, and investigators with the state Insurance Department discovered he had embezzled money from his customers.

The people had purchased prepaid funeral packages from Damet, but the money wasn't set aside in a trust fund as required by law. More than $57,000 was found to be missing from 10 trust funds.

Damet is serving a five-year prison sentence after rea-ching a plea agreement in August with prosecutors on the embezzlement and drug charges.

Prosecutors have seized the funeral home and want to auction it to pay back the money Damet owes, but the property has been caught up in litigation.

Mother Nature's fury
Heavy rains in June, July and August led to flooding problems in several area communities as Oklahoma recorded one of the wettest summers in the state's history.

Roads washed away, water lines burst and dams broke under the torrential rainfall. Among the communities affected were Minco, Newcastle, Blanchard and Purcell.

Blanchard and portions of Minco lost their water supply after lines in the communities were washed out during the summer flooding. Many of the city's roads were left impassable in Newcastle, leading the mayor to declare a state of emergency.

The waters of Walnut Creek overflowed the river's banks in Purcell, flooding businesses and forcing evacuations on the south side of town.

School boom
Despite a slowdown in residential homebuilding in 2007, student enrollment at area schools continued to climb.

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