Three friends accused of beating and paralyzing an off-duty Oklahoma City police officer now face a felony assault count that is punishable by up to life in prison.
The three were charged Thursday with assault and battery by means of force as is likely to cause death.
Joshua B. Rinken, 28, of Norman, Jimmy Dan Smith, 28, of Tuttle, and Cadmio Antonio Lopez, 31, of Newcastle, remain in Oklahoma County jail.
The officer, Chad Peery, 34, suffered a broken neck late Feb. 15 after he tried to escort the men out of Dan O'Brien's Public House in northwest Oklahoma City, police reported.
Bartenders who knew Peery was a police officer sought his help because of reports the men were trying to start fights. He is paralyzed from the shoulders down with some movement in his arms,
The three friends were charged last week with two felony counts — maiming and conspiracy. The maximum punishment for maiming is seven years and for conspiracy is 10 years.
Prosecutors Thursday amended the charge, adding the new assault count as an alternative to the maiming count. The change means jurors will have an option — assault or maiming — if the case reaches trial. The change also gives prosecutors more flexibility in any plea negotiations.
Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland said he made the change after consultations with Peery's physicians about the seriousness of the injuries.
Police said Rinken started the assault, hitting the officer in the face at the bar's entryway.
Witnesses said Smith and Rinken then punched Peery while Lopez kept others from interceding, police reported.