DA says officers’ use of deadly force justified
Sallisaw Police Officers Coty Biles and Devin Harriman will return to duty immediately after District Attorney Jack Thorp issued a letter Monday saying he declined to prosecute the pair in connection with a deadly shooting in March.
Biles and Harriman have been on administrative leave since the shooting incident on March 14 that claimed the life of Shawn Watie.
Sharp based his decision on a concluded investigation conducted by Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Robert Walden.
Referencing the report, Sharp said, “After considering the information you have provided, coupled with the Report of Medical Examiner for the autopsy performed on Shawn Watie, I have decided to decline charges against Sallisaw Police Officers Coty Biles and Devin Harriman. It is my opinion that the deadly force utilized by these officers on March 14, 2019, in Sequoyah County was justified under 21 O.S. 732.”
On that date, much of eastern Oklahoma law enforcement was on the lookout for an escaped fugitive named Travis Davis, Thorp said. He said sometime shortly after 7 a.m., Sallisaw Police Officer Lita Armer received a plausible tip from a person at Sallisaw Schools, who alerted her to a person she had just observed south of Sallisaw that matched the description of the wanted fugitive. “This person had been described as armed and dangerous and Armer contacted Sallisaw dispatch regarding the tip.”
According to initial information, Harriman, who had just started his shift, was just leaving home when he was dispatched to south Sallisaw to investigate the person believed to be Davis. According to information supplied by the Sallisaw Police Department immediately following the incident, Harriman responded to the area immediately, before he had the opportunity to retrieve his body camera at the police department as per Sallisaw Police Department policy.
Referencing the OSBI report, Sharp said Harriman located the person “that resembled the fugitive” near the side of U.S. Highway 59, just south of the city.
“Acting under the Memorandum of Understanding between the Sequoyah County Sheriff and the Sallisaw Police Department, Harriman attempted to identify the person believed to be Davis. Because Harriman believed he was encountering Davis, he did order the person (Shawn Watie) to get to his knees. Watie failed to comply with the order, Sharp said.
“Shawn Watie inexplicably pulled a knife out of his clothing, gripped it in his hand and began pacing. Numerous times, Officer Harriman ordered Watie to comply with his commands. Officer Harriman called for officers to assist him as it was tive of Watie possessing a knife in the manner described by Harriman at the time of the described attack,” Thorp said.
Thorp also said, “It is especially notable that at the time of this interaction, it appears Watie was under the influence of methamphetamine. At the time of his death, Watie had the following concentrations of methamphetamine and amphetamine (a metabolite of methamphetamine) – methamphetamine, 0.83 mcg/mL; and amphetamine positive less than 0.13 mcg/mL,” Thorp said.
“It is clear from the investigation, statements of witnesses, corroborating physical evidence and findings of the Medical Examiner, that Officer Harriman and Detective Biles were acting justifiably under Oklahoma law when they utilized deadly force in self-defense upon Shawn Watie on March 14, 2019, in Sequoyah County,” Thorp said in his letter.
Sallisaw Police Capt. Jeff Murray issued a short statement on behalf of the Sallisaw Police Department Tuesday, saying the two officers would be returning to work immediately.
clear Watie was acting dangerous, and was armed with a deadly weapon. Inexplicably, Watie made a statement to Officer Harriman, 'Sorry I hate that I have to do this to you,' and started toward Officer Harri-man,” Sharp explained.
At that time, Sharp said Biles arrived and called out to Harriman. Harriman answered, 'He has a knife!' Almost immediately after, Watie got within 3-5 feet of Harriman and Harriman responded by firing his weapon at and into Watie. Detective Biles responded as well, and utilized deadly force against Watie. Watie was wounded and ultimately died from his injuries at Northeastern Health System Sequoyah.
“Multiple civilian witnesses observed the action described above, specifically corroborating that Watie moved forward toward the officers while he was at gunpoint. It is also noted that crime scene agents with the OSBI recovered two lock blade type knives from the scene,” Thorp said. “The Medical Examiner ruled that the death occurred as a result of multiple gunshot wounds, but he also noted that there was a laceration of the right thumb, corrobora-