Oklahoma officer to face trial in fatal shooting
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A suspended Oklahoma City officer has been ordered to face trial in the on-duty fatal shooting of an unarmed suicidal man.
A judge decided Friday to send Keith Patrick Sweeney’s case to trial, the Oklahoman reported . Sweeney, 33, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges in last year’s shooting death of Dustin Pigeon, 29.
Officers responded to a Nov. 15 call about a suicidal person and found Pigeon doused in lighter fluid and threatening to set himself on fire in a courtyard surrounded by homes, according to police. Prosecutors said Sweeney fatally shot Pigeon after another officer, Troy Nitzky, fired a bean bag to no effect.
Sweeney has said he thought Pigeon had a knife and believed his life was in danger. But a police affidavit concluded Pigeon was unarmed and didn’t pose a threat to officers.
“I personally didn’t feel that Mr. Pigeon needed to be killed that evening,” testified Erik Howell, one of the officers who witnessed the shooting.
District Attorney David Prater said most officers are working daily to “do the right thing every single time.”
“This is one of those situations where we allege that did not occur and that there was a violation of law,” Prater said. “When you’re given the authority to carry deadly force and to utilize deadly force, you need to make sure you do that consistent with the laws of this state and of this country.”
Defense attorney Gary James said he has “no qualms” about the decision to take the case to a jury.
Pigeon’s parents filed an excessive force lawsuit against Sweeney in June. That case is pending. Sweeney is still on paid leave.
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com