Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett announced Friday afternoon that he has accepted the resignation of Police Chief Ron Palmer and appointed Charles W. “Chuck” Jordan as the interim chief for the department. Despite competing press conferences addressing rampant rumors amid department budget cuts, union objections, and layoffs well documented by local media the timing and purpose of this change remains unclear.
Painfully clear hours later was the great challenge pubic safety workers face as a man drew his last breath on a Brookside sidewalk with strangers working franticly to save his life even before police or emergency workers arrived.
Working on the police chief story; it had been a long day for this writer. Advertising calls, client projects in process, business demanding attention and short on staff; by 8 pm, I needed a break and decided to meet friends at the Slo Ride Saloon south of 41st Street on Peoria.
I had just ordered a beer and taken a seat. Checking the room, I noticed movement outside through the tinted windows not unexpectedly as people arriving by motorcycle park on the wide sidewalk in front of the club. A woman opened the front door and called a name I did not know. Then a shot rang out and people started moving toward the door.
Contrary to Hollywood’s presentations, Americans tend to run to the sound of gunfire – most to help the fallen.
Not first out the door, I first saw one man in a red t-shirt being held down by club patrons, another larger man unmoving on the ground between motorcycles. A ratty old half-size pick-up truck was parked in the middle of the outside lane of Peoria with the passenger side door open. A third large man dressed as a Biker was obviously distraught as was the girl with him.
Patrons who work in the medical field quickly discovered the unmoving man had been shot in the chest at close range. Demands for towels were shouted as the victim’s breathing checked and found shallow, weak, and soon gurgling. Frantic efforts did not save him. A small dog had escaped from the pickup and was darting frightened and lost underfoot.
Noticeably wide-eyed, the man in the red t-shirt looked drugged-up and tried to move away several times, but was held down by the crowd. When the police arrived he had been moved inside by patrons. Sitting on a barstool, when the officer asked him to stand he did so, then without being asked turned around and put his hands behind his back. The officer obliged and he was handcuffed.
The woman with the biker said the other two had followed them in the pick-up as they rode west on 41st Street. They had just visited a friend, retired City of Tulsa information technology employee Steve Moody in the hospital who had suffered a stroke earlier in the day at Slo Ride Saloon. Other patrons were waiting to hear how Moody was doing. He died the next evening.
Both men in the pick-up were shouting insults of motorcycle riders and challenges. The bike turned south for half a block on Peoria then up on the curb as the truck drove past. The pick-up driver turned around and came back to attack – the truck was pointed north when it stopped, but the engine was running as though they expected to quickly hop back in and take off.
The two men got out of the truck and jumped the biker. Physically entangled and getting hit, the biker pulled his gun and shot. Friends of the biker and his girl noted that he was licensed with a concealed carry permit. The daily newspaper reported it was Tulsa’s sixth homicide this year. More directly, it was the sixth in three weeks.
It seemed like, but was not forever before emergency personal arrived. EMSA spokeswoman Tina Well later said the 33-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene. The single bullet had caused catastrophic damage. Police closed and held everyone in the club for a time.
At one point, sixteen police officers were on scene not counting those not in uniform. Apparently, there was no other crime in midtown Tulsa as exciting that evening. Police outnumbered club patrons.
Media showed up, but most tried to avoid them. Thus media got the standard video of police cars with light flashing, crime scene tape, EMSA and officers milling around the scene. I don’t like reporting crime news because, to me, there is nothing new about crime.
Hours earlier, Mayor Bartlett had said, “Public safety is the top priority for the City of Tulsa. Be assured that Interim Chief Jordan has the knowledge and the skills in Tulsa law enforcement to hit the ground running. As a former Deputy Sheriff and former Tulsa police sergeant, Chief Jordan understands the dynamics of law enforcement in the Tulsa area. He is already familiar with our city’s police officers, and they know him,” Bartlett said. “I am confident he can lead the command staff to focus our officers’ efforts and the activities of the department in the areas where they are needed most.”
Chief Jordan has served in the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office since December 1, 2005. His areas of responsibility included court operations, court holding and transportation, safety and training, tactical block instruction at the Sheriff’s Office Academy, criminal investigations, patrol corporal and sergeant positions as well as sergeant and captain of the SWAT division.
Chief Jordan also served the United National Missions in Kosovo from September 2003 to September 2005 where he was responsible for the operational command and administration of 1,200 police officers, 850 Kosovo police service officers and 350 International Police Officers from 46 nations.
“This is my home,” Chief Jordan said. “This is where the people most important to me live and some of those died [in service to the community].
One of the questions I asked at the press conference was when and how would the public have an opportunity to direct police policy. We pay for it – all of it – so when do taxpayers have the opportunity to prioritize ticket-writers and detectives, management and support staff? Does the Tulsa Police Department really need an armored personnel carrier? How important is one helicopter or two – horses or Segways?
The answer from Chief Jordan was that he plans to establish a committee that would include citizens for oversight in the near future. That could be interesting depending on who is appointed to the committee. Will it be a real review or political cover?
No public safety effort of any kind at any level of funding could ever have prevented last night’s death on Brookside. Further, I am not sure police ever stop crime. They document crime, accidents, tragedy and stupidity after the fact then deliver that information to the legal system for punishment or not. We are safe or not as people around us are sober, sane, honorable, reasonable and rational or not.
I don’t ride motorcycles. I have seen too many accidents and lost too many friends to ride anything at significant speed that doesn’t have at least four wheels with a roll bar. I have family and friends that ride no matter how many times I urge them to higher levels of self-preservation.
They know playing tag with multi-ton automobiles on streets unleveled between pot-holes could, at any moment, end their life. I understand the joy of a fast wind on a sensitive responsive machine – it’s an adrenalin thing – a feeling of freedom and flying in the wind. Biker clothing and clubs catering to the life-style are popular and many of those who may look and act like bikers for a few hours may also be accountants, lawyers, ministers or other occupations – they just love to ride.
In this insane event on Brookside, the boys in the pick-up apparently hated the visible appearance of Bikers as a class. Maybe they were jealous of the babe on the back or of the independent attitude motorcycles represent, but this was a hate crime. They shouted hate. They pursued their victim. They altered their path of travel and exited their vehicle to strike in anger with life threatening force. The plan must have been to jump out, rough the riders up then jump back into the car to crow about their macho victory. They just didn’t know the biker held greater force.
I don’t own a gun, but I may soon purchase one. I would also enroll for additional gun safety training and apply for a concealed carry permit.
If people are attacked because of what they look like or dress like or ride, by any kind of hater – cranked up, drunk or what – then I would personally feel safer if everyone carried a gun. There have always been more helpers than haters in America – thank God – and regardless of the chief, police do not make people safe from hate. With regret over the entire Brookside event, I thank the founders for the Second Amendment.