You never know

In 41 years of doing journalism, you log a lot of stories, some of which you print and others you just sort of keep as mental notes for some future use.

It's said that a journalist only prints about 35 percent of what he knows. I won't go into all the legal justifications, or the confidentiality you promised a source.

One such story I recall (that we actually printed here) occurred in the early days of my career here at Your TIMES. It was a time when things were slightly different and, perhaps, a little more relaxed.

There was a time when the local police, the sheriff's office and the highway patrol actually called me when they needed a particular skill that I had – photography. It was a time when the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation wasn't as readily available as it is these days. It was also a time when law enforcement didn't mind having me around because they knew I wouldn't spill the beans on anything they were doing.

These days, when I occasionally make the trip between Sallisaw and Fort Smith on Interstate 40, I recall when I was jolted awake in the middle of the night by the phone ringing. When I answered, it was a lieutenant with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, whose name I don't recall, but he was with their internal affairs, I believe.

He explained that Trooper Buck Buchanan had been involved in a shooting at Muldrow and that he was told he should contact me to come take photos. I got dressed, loaded my camera with film, picked up two extra rolls and hit the road.

The shooting had occurred near the westbound on ramp of Interstate 40. Naturally, when I arrived, patrol car lights lit up the entire area. There was a pickup sitting in one lane of traffic and Buck's unit a number of feet behind it and slightly off to the side of the road.

I'm pretty sure Buck was Native American, but I don't think I ever knew what tribe. He might have been Cherokee. He was dark complected and had black hair, but when I went up to him as he was standing by his unit, I told him he looked like a white man, just to maybe ease some of the tension.

He explained that the man in the pickup was weaving and he turned his lights on. The man stopped his pickup in the middle of the road. Buck pulled up behind him and opened his door to get out. The driver of the pickup also got out, then leaned back in the cab of his pickup and came back out with a rifle.

Fortunately, Buck was standing behind his driver side door when the man fired. I remember him telling me he needed to get the engine between him and that rifle, so he dove through the front seat to the other side. The two exchanged gunfire and Buck eventually hit the man in the shoulder with a shot and put him down (he didn't die).

My job was to photograph any places they could find where a bullet hit, photograph the overall scene and photograph the angles from each shooter's perspective. I remember Buck walking me around the two vehicles and explaining things. When I walked around to get the view over the hood of his patrol unit, I noticed a deep groove smack in the middle of his hood.

Buck looked at me with a grin on his face and said, “I believe that one is mine. I think I shot my own car.”

I printed the photos that night and turned them over to the OHP. About a week or two later, two internal affairs guys showed up in the office and thanked me for taking the photos. They explained they had not been able to account for one of the shots the suspect fired, and in one of my photos they found the bullet hole just beneath the door lock on the driver's side door, probably the door that saved Buck from getting hit.

Not sure where Buck is today, but I was thankful he survived that night.

This story does have a somewhat sad ending. One of the agents who thanked me for taking the photos was killed some time later in a manhunt, I believe, near Caddo. In that line of work I guess you never know.

Sequoyah County Times

111 N. Oak
Sallisaw OK 74955
918-775-4433