The city of Pawhuska faces a legal challenge regarding an incident Dec. 4 in the vicinity of the intersection of Lynn Avenue and St. Paul Avenue, in which police arrested a resident identified as William Copple on complaints of disorderly conduct and a public peace violation.
The city manager, the police chief and a plaintiff attorney have confirmed to the Journal-Capital that tort claims have been filed with city government on behalf of William Copple, 38, and his mother, Lola Copple, 73.
The newspaper talked briefly with District Attorney Mike Fisher, who declined to comment, except to say there is an investigation of the events that took place Dec. 4 at Lynn and St. Paul.
Pawhuska lawyer and former Associate District Judge B. David Gambill, who is one of two lawyers representing the Copples, said he demanded an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation probe of what happened, and learned the process of obtaining an investigation was already underway.
Police Chief Nick Silva said the department welcomes an OSBI review of the circumstances of the arrest of William Copple.
“We have nothing to hide,” Silva said.
A police report the Journal-Capital obtained from the Pawhuska Police Department regarding the Copple arrest includes narratives composed by Silva and by officer Zach West. The department also provided the newspaper with a copy of a statement by municipal code enforcement officer Steve Hughes.
In his statement, Hughes says he was on Kansas Avenue about 11:15 a.m. Dec. 4, overseeing a city worker who was cleaning up an abandoned property, when he saw a person on his knee in the alley, taking aim with a rifle at him and the worker he was supervising. Hughes statement says the person with the rifle was 50-60 feet away. William Copple was allegedly the person identified as having held the rifle.
Hughes took cover behind a tree and heard what he thought was probably a shot from a .22-caliber rifle or a pellet gun ring out. When he observed the shooter cocking the gun, he concluded it was probably a pellet gun. Hughes said he called officer Lorrie Hennesy for assistance, but she was busy on another call and said she would call the police department to get some help for Hughes and the worker he was supervising.
Silva and West responded. Silva says in his statement that he approached cautiously, with his service weapon drawn but in a defensive position.
“At no time did I raise my weapon to a ready position,” Silva said in his statement. “I kept it at my side so I at least had it ready, but if seen I wanted it to be obvious I was only in a defensive posture as I approached.”
Silva said in his statement that William Copple confronted him and challenged him about whether he was pointing a gun a Copple’s children. Silva said he told Copple that his gun wasn’t pointed and he told Copple to stop. Subsequently, when Copple placed his hands in his coat pockets, Silva did point his service weapon at Copple and order him to the ground, the chief said in his statement.
Silva’s statement reflects that orders were given to some young males and to Lola Copple to get back while police were in the process of subduing and arresting William Copple. Silva’s statement also references a blow he struck to the suspect.
“While still attempting to cuff Mr. Copple, and still hearing officer West struggling to gain control of Mr. Copple’s hands I delivered an open palm strike to Mr. Copple’s forehead,” Silva said in his statement. He said the open palm strike was a common practice, used to gain compliance but expected to cause “little to no damage.” Silva said the blow had the desired effect — William Copple complied.
Plaintiff attorney Gambill said he became involved in representing the Copples because what he learned about what had happened offended him. He said that if the matter goes to court, it will probably be federal court. He said that he and Pawhuska lawyer Bransford Shoemake both represent the Copples.
Gambill also said there are other tort claims that have been filed with the city of Pawhuska, and that multiple lawyers are involved with the filings, which concern allegations regarding police behavior.
City Manager Dave Neely confirmed he is aware of at least one other tort claim, aside from the Copple matter, but added he doesn’t believe he is at liberty to discuss it at this point.