Cattle thief dies in custody

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital
Cattle thief dies in custody

A life-long medical condition caused the death of a 27-year-old Osage County man who had recently pleaded guilty here to charges of cattle theft and the illegal disposal of hospital waste, said a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Garrett Mitchel Gibson died from the undisclosed ailment May 17 at the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, the DOC official said.

Eleven days earlier, on May 6, Gibson had been sentenced in Osage County District Court to six 10-year prison terms after he pleaded guilty to stealing seven head of cattle in 2014 and to illegally dumping medical waste into the Arkansas River in March — while he was free on bond for the cattle-rustling charges.

Although Gibson’s home address was listed as Ralston, he had been a longtime resident of Osage County’s Big Bend area west of Fairfax, authorities said. The cattle in Gibson’s case reportedly were taken from a ranch pasture close to his home and then resold at livestock markets in neighboring counties.

The waste-disposal charges had been filed in Pawnee County and involved materials Gibson had taken from a Tulsa hospital. According to reports of his March arrest, Gibson was caught leaving the hospital with a trash can-full of used needles and drug vials. Shortly before his arrest, authorities in Pawnee County found medical waste dumped in the Arkansas River near Ralston and Gibson was later charged with discharging pollutants into state waters without a permit.

Each of the six sentences imposed for the Osage and Pawnee county offenses carried 10-year terms with the final eight years to be suspended. On the livestock charges, Gibson had been ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution, court records show.

Less than a week after entering the guilty pleas in Pawhuska, Gibson was transported to the DOC’s Assessment and Reception Center at Lexington. He had not yet been processed, however, when a “pre-existing medical condition” caused him to be taken to a Lindsay hospital on May 13 and then transferred to the Oklahoma City medical center prior to his death the following day. Gibson was considered to be in DOC custody when he expired, officials said.

The Office of the State Medical Examiner is expected to issue an official cause-of-death determination for Gibson, officials added.

Last December, rangers with the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association had taken Gibson into custody on the cattle charges after he barricaded himself inside a closet at an Oklahoma City residence — an event which attracted live television coverage. While free on bond for those charges, Gibson became a suspect in another high-profile case in March when he was charged in Tulsa County with stealing boxes of medical waste from a hospital. Court documents said he posed as a janitor in order to gain access to dozens of containers containing medical bio-hazards — primarily used needles and near-empty vials of medication.

The hospital arrest eventually led Gibson to be charged in Pawnee County with dumping the waste off bridges and into the Arkansas River. A fisherman found the containers washed on to the shore and reported it to authorities. Although he showed an extensive history of theft-related crimes, Gibson had never been imprisoned, according to on-line court records.

The containers were marked with the name of St. John Medical Center and a St. John security memo sent out prior to Gibson’s arrest said an unauthorized man had been detected by surveillance cameras at the hospital going from room to room stealing bio-hazard boxes. According to the memo, it occurred for almost a week. A Tulsa TV station reported that Gibson may have stolen the bio-hazard materials in an effort to obtain pain medication for his own personal use.