Associated Press

State of Oklahoma

 

A man charged with crashing his vehicle into Arkansas' Ten Commandments display nearly three years after he was accused of destroying a monument at Oklahoma's Capitol has been found mentally unfit to go to trial.

A Pulaski County judge on Thursday found Michael Tate Reed unfit to proceed and ordered him to be held by the state hospital for further evaluation. Judge Chris Piazza set a September 2018 hearing on Reed's mental status.

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Oklahoma legislators have been raising thousands of dollars from lobbyists at lavish fundraisers during a special session limping into its eighth week, yet they've failed to make much progress toward plugging a $215 million hole in the state budget.

The Associated Press obtained invitations to a dozen scheduled fundraisers for some of the Legislature's top Republican leaders, including the powerful chairs of the appropriations committees in the House and Senate.

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 Oklahoma's 149 state senators and representatives will learn if they get their pay cut after a state committee meets to review the lawmakers' salary and benefits package.

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Oklahoma City police say an officer shot and killed a man who doused himself in lighter fluid and was trying to set himself on fire.

Capt. Bo Mathews says Sgt. Keith Sweeney shot and killed 29-year-old Dustin Pigeon early Wednesday after another officer shot Pigeon with a bean bag gun to no effect. He says the officers were responding to a report about a suicidal man and that Pigeon tried to set himself on fire with a lighter before they took action.

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An Oklahoma Department of Health spokesman says the financially troubled agency does not have enough money to pay its employees beyond November.

Spokesman Tony Sellars made the comments Wednesday as state lawmakers debate legislation that would appropriate an emergency $30 million to the Health Department while cutting the budgets of other state agencies and raiding several government accounts. Lawmakers are in the eighth week of a special legislative session to try to fill a $215 million shortfall in the state's budget.

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Officials say a 9-year-old elementary school student in northeastern Oklahoma has died after losing consciousness in a physical education class at school.

The cause of death has yet to be determined for Milagros Villalpando. Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office spokeswoman Amy Elliot says the toxicology reports could take several weeks.

Vinita Public Schools Superintendent Kelly Grimmett says the fourth-grader lost consciousness and stopped breathing while resting after playing a five-minute round of basketball with classmates on Monday.

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A former Enid mayor and bank vice president has been charged with 33 felonies in what police say is the largest fraud investigation in the city's history.

Ernst Leroy Currier was charged Tuesday with multiple counts, including misapplication of funds, forgery and obtaining money by false pretenses. Police say the charges involve dozens of fraudulent loans and identity theft going back 15 years.

The Enid News & Eagle reports that the 64-year-old Currier faces up to 299 years in prison if convicted.

 

Oklahoma's former lead seismologist says he felt pressured by an official at the University of Oklahoma to not link the state's surge in earthquakes to oil and gas production.

The Tulsa World reports that Austin Holland's sworn testimony came in a lawsuit filed by a resident against two oil companies for damages sustained during an earthquake in 2011. The quake also was felt in Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas.

University President David Boren and the former dean of university's Earth and Energy College deny Holland was pressured by the school.

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Charges have been filed against a 25-year-old man who livestreamed part of a 2½-hour police chase in Oklahoma.

Cleveland County District Court records show eight charges were filed Monday against Brenton James Hager of Oklahoma City. That includes three felony counts including assault on a police officer with a dangerous weapon, endangering others while eluding and unauthorized use of a vehicle. He was also charged with five misdemeanors.

Bond was set at $100,000. Court documents list no defense attorney for Hager.

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Oklahoma's legislative leaders are unveiling bills to cut funding to most state agencies and use cash reserves to finish plugging a budget hole after lawmakers failed to pass a broad package of tax increases.

A series of bills were introduced Tuesday in House and Senate budget committees. The bills would impose cuts of about 2.5 percent to most agencies to make up for expected revenue lost from an unconstitutional cigarette tax passed in May.

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Democrats have added another win in the deep-red Oklahoma Legislature, continuing the minority party's string of success and chipping away at the Republican Party's hold on state government.

The previously GOP-held House seat and two Senate seats on the ballot Tuesday were all in mostly Republican districts around Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

But Democrat Allison Ikley-Freeman eked out a win over Republican Brian O'Hara in Senate District 37, picking up the seat that represents parts of Sand Springs, Jenks and west Tulsa.

 

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has joined more than 40 other state attorneys general in asking Congress to repeal a law they say is "a step backward" in attempts to prevent opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

A letter signed Monday by 44 state attorneys general asks Congress to repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act. The law requires the Drug Enforcement Administration to show cause before it denies, revokes or suspends a registration for a controlled substance act violation.

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Police in Tulsa have arrested two people accused of driving a stolen SUV through three stores and stealing almost a dozen AR-15 rifles.

Investigators allege 43-year-old Anthony Martinez and 37-year-old Shannon Fryman drove through an exterior wall and two interior walls to reach a firearms store early Friday.

A probable cause affidavit says they were in the store for about a minute and loaded at least 11 rifles and five boxes of ammunition into the SUV.

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An investigation is underway following the deaths of two inmates at a Tulsa halfway house in three days.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Matt Elliott says one inmate, 47-year-old David Walden, died on Friday. The second, 54-year-old Richard Eubanks, died Sunday.

Both were inmates of the Tulsa Transitional Center, a 390-bed halfway house in downtown Tulsa. Elliott says prison officials can't say whether the deaths were linked or where they occurred.

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The Tulsa Zoo says a male African lion that has been on exhibit at the zoo since 2004 has died.

The zoo announced Monday that Kofi died during the weekend while surrounded by his caregivers. Kofi would have turned 19 years old later this month.

The zoo's animal care and veterinary staff had been monitoring Kofi since he was diagnosed with chronic end-stage renal disease. Kidney failure is a common cause of death in older members of the cat family, including domestic house cats.

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The recent success of Democrats in deep-red Oklahoma amid continuing state budget problems will be put to a further test Tuesday in special elections for three previously Republican-held state legislative seats.

The races are in suburban districts in Oklahoma City and Tulsa where Republicans have nearly 2-to-1 registration advantages, but come at a time of voter frustration over years of state budget shortfalls and recent scandals that have led to the resignation of Republican incumbents.

 

 A national effort is launching that aims to help low-income defendants get out of jail by bailing them out as their criminal cases progress through the courts.

The Bail Project grew out of an effort in New York called the Bronx Freedom Fund, which paid bail for people who otherwise would be jailed. Robin Steinberg is running the project and says millions of dollars has been raised. The goal is to have a $16 million fund in five years that pays bail in 40 cities across the country and is able to get about 160,000 people out of jail.

OKC Police

 

Police say two people are dead and another is injured after a shooting in southwest Oklahoma City.

Police say the shooting happened late Sunday. According to police, officers found 15-year-old Erica Bradberry dead in the yard of the home and two other male victims suffering from gunshot wounds.

Oklahoma City police say one of those victims, 26-year-old Giovanny Portugal, died at a hospital, while the other person underwent surgery and is expected to survive.

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A federal grant of more than $16 million is expected to increase the number of charter schools in Oklahoma over the next several years.

The Oklahoman reports that the state in September was awarded the U.S. Department of Education's Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program grant. The grant will be used to fund nearly 25 new charter schools.

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The Oklahoma Department of Health shifted some federal funds into programs the money was never intended to fund and now faces a $30 million shortfall that could grow if the agency has to repay the federal government.

The Oklahoman reports that state audits dating back to 2015 pointed out problems with the Health Department's handling of federal money.

An audit of federal funds that year found the agency was not reconciling expenditures with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services in a timely manner, with as much as six months lag time on monthly reports.

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Police in Muskogee are searching for a suspect in the shooting death of a 25-year-old man.

Investigators say that the victim, identified as Brett Doty, was shot and killed inside a vehicle.

Officers say they were called to the scene Friday night and found Doty with a gunshot wound to the neck. The victim was unresponsive and was pronounced dead after emergency responders transported him to a local hospital.

The shooting remains under investigation and police say they do not have a suspect in custody.

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Two former Oklahoma death row inmates and their attorneys have settled wrongful conviction lawsuits against the state for a total of $3.15 million.

Records obtained by The Oklahoman through an Open Records request show Yancy Douglas settled his lawsuit in August for $1 million and Paris Powell settled in September for $2.15 million.

The two men were convicted in the 1993 fatal shooting of 14-year-old Shauna Farrow in Oklahoma City.

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A bill by Republican Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe intended to address the care of military veterans in Veteran's Administration hospitals has passed the U.S. Senate.

The bill passed Thursday would allow the Secretary of the VA to remove or demote a VA employee based on performance or misconduct. It was introduced by Lankford and Inhofe in February following reports of problems in VA hospitals in Oklahoma.

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NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Baker Mayfield threw three touchdown passes, Rodney Anderson had 290 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns, and Number 5 Oklahoma rolled past 8th ranked TCU 38-20 Saturday night to take sole possession of first place in the Big 12. Anderson ran for 151 yards and two touchdowns and caught five passes for 139 yards and two scores.

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The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry says that a referendum to increase the drop-off fee for cattle by $1 per head has been defeated.

Oklahoma Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese announced Thursday that the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association rejected the measure, which would've raised the fee and generated an additional $3.2 million to be used to promote beef sales.

Some ranchers opposed the measure and requested the Montana-based Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund and the Organization for Competitive Markets file an injunction to stop the vote.

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The Department of Homeland Security is planning to conduct chemical and biological tests near the border between Kansas and Oklahoma.

The Wichita Eagle reports that department officials plan to execute a "low level outdoor release" of inert chemical and biological simulant materials at the old Chilocco Indian School in January and again in June. The campus is in Oklahoma, just 6 miles  south of Arkansas City, Kansas.

The department says the test is to determine how protected people would be when staying inside if biological agents are used in a terror attack.

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A man driving a stolen pickup was shot with a stun gun and arrested in Oklahoma after a 2½-hour police chase, part of which he streamed live on Facebook.

Police began pursuing the truck Friday in south Oklahoma City. Cleveland County sheriff's spokesman John Roberts says the man was arrested in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.

Authorities say the man stopped to talk to a postal worker during the chase before driving into a field.

Local TV stations also showed a man with a gun firing at the truck's tires.

State of Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin has appointed a longtime Oklahoma Highway Patrolman to serve as the state's next commissioner of public safety.

Fallin on Friday announced OHP Maj. Billy "Rusty" Rhoades will assume the post on Tuesday. He also will serve as Fallin's secretary of safety and security on her executive cabinet.

Rhoades is a 28-year veteran of the OHP whose assignments have included overseeing the Capitol patrol and the security detail for former Gov. David Walters. He also served on FBI task forces targeting gangs, violent crimes and terrorism.

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Oklahoma prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a 36-year-old man accused of shooting a police officer to death.

Byron James Shepard is charged with first-degree murder in the March 27 death of 22-year-old Tecumseh Police Officer Justin Terney.

The Oklahoman reports Pottawatomie County prosecutors announced plans to seek the death penalty Thursday during a preliminary hearing that will determine whether there is probable cause to try Shepard for first-degree murder.

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Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says he wants the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case of a Native American man whose murder conviction in state court was overturned after it was determined he should have been tried in federal court.

Hunter issued a statement on Thursday after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined Hunter's request for a rehearing in the case of Patrick Dwayne Murphy.

Hunter says he will ask the 10th Circuit to stay the effectiveness of its ruling pending action by the Supreme Court.

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