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Tulsa police officer killing: Suspect's 14-year history of run-ins with local police began with assault on very same officer

Related: Man jailed in connection to death of Tulsa Police sergeant attempts suicide, jail staff say


A look into the lengthy history of arrests and criminal charges filed by local law enforcement against the suspect in the killing of Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson reveals one striking coincidence.

The two had come face to face before.

David Anthony Ware’s first arrest as an adult came 14 years ago, on July 13, 2006. Johnson was the arresting officer.

“On above date and time at above location, I encountered the suspect,” reads the arrest and booking report in Johnson’s handwriting. “After suspect was in custody, suspect spit on this officer four times.”

Back in 2006, Ware was 18, about to turn 19 the following month, when police were called to a southeast Tulsa apartment complex. There they reportedly found an intoxicated Ware with a staggering gait, slurred speech and bloodshot eyes, openly urinating in a parking lot.

But what began as a run-of-the-mill late-night public intoxication call took a turn when Ware became “extremely belligerent” and Johnson and his backup officer opted to call for a special prisoner transport van rather than take Ware to jail in one of their patrol cars.

The backup officer wrote that as they waited, Ware kicked at and threatened to harm Johnson, spitting on the officer at least four times.

“Officer Johnson told the subject that if he continued to spit on him and kick at him, that he would use pepper spray. Officer Johnson warned the subject of this at least three times before he sprayed him,” the backup officer wrote in his report, which the Tulsa World obtained through sources.

“After being sprayed, the subject continued to kick at Officer Johnson and tried to get up. The subject also continued to threaten violent acts upon Officer Johnson saying that he was going to kill Officer Johnson.”

Making decisions on prosecutions

Public court records reveal that in the 14 years before Ware’s arrest in the June 29 fatal shooting of Johnson, who was 45, and the shooting of Tulsa Police Officer Aurash Zarkeshan, 26, Ware was charged by Tulsa County prosecutors in 10 other cases.

Seven of those cases involved allegations of felony offenses, and three were filed as misdemeanors, but Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler acknowledges that many didn’t stick.

“Oftentimes, cases that come to the District Attorney’s Office present themselves with facts and circumstances that would justify the filing of a criminal charge. As those cases move through the criminal process, there are many instances in which prosecutors have to determine: Can they actually put that case on in front of a judge or jury and have a reasonable expectation of conviction?” Kunzweiler told the Tulsa World on Tuesday.

“Sometimes those cases are dependent on the availability of witnesses or supporting evidence. Prosecutors have to try to make the best decision they can with the information available to them at the time. It’s not a perfect system.”

Numerous arrests, fewer convictions

According to court records, Ware admitted to not complying with the probation and community service conditions of a deferred sentence he initially received in the 2006 case.

After his felony conviction in a 2008 second-degree burglary case, Ware’s 2006 deferred sentence also became a felony conviction for one count of prisoner placing bodily fluids on a government employee.

An Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman said Ware was incarcerated from March 2, 2009, to Oct. 26, 2010, on those two convictions.

And a Department of Corrections report contained in public court records says Ware’s first contact with the legal system occurred when he was 15, when he received a juvenile court referral in a 2003 malicious mischief case. In 2005, he received a juvenile court referral for violating curfew and possession of cannabis.

During his adult life, Ware has been arrested and had charges filed but ultimately dismissed in Tulsa County District Court related to allegations of harboring a fugitive from justice, knowingly concealing stolen property, unauthorized use of a vehicle, and domestic assault and battery.

His misdemeanor conviction record includes drug-related offenses in 2014, concealing a weapon and larceny from a retailer in 2015, larceny again in 2016, and possession of drug paraphernalia and burglary tools in 2017.

Other public court records show that he entered pleas to charges of public intoxication in Tulsa’s municipal court and in Tulsa County District Court in 2006 and 2008.

Handling case in ‘an objective fashion’

Ware, now 32, is being held in the Tulsa County jail on one count of murder, one count of shooting with intent to kill and one count of possession of a firearm after a felony conviction.

Also charged is Matthew Nicholas Hall, 29, whom prosecutors allege was the driver of a getaway car Ware used to flee the scene of Johnson’s and Zarkeshan’s shootings. Hall is charged with being an accessory to murder and a separate count of being an accessory to a felony.

Asked whether any additional charges could come of the investigation into the handgun that Ware, a convicted felon, is now charged with using in the shootings, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray said he doesn’t yet know.

“The DA’s Office anticipates receiving reports from the Tulsa Police Department in the next day or so,” Gray said, “and any additional decisions that need to be made about additional charges will be made after we receive it.”

Prosecutors and Tulsa police on Tuesday both declined to comment on any more specifics in the case, including whether Ware might have recognized Johnson as the officer who arrested him in 2006.

Kunzweiler said his task at hand is to treat the pending case against Ware “in an objective fashion.”

“These are emotional cases, and my job is to separate the facts from the emotion and approach the case in an objective fashion, as I would with any case,” Kunzweiler said. “He (Ware) enjoys the presumption of innocence like all people who are charged with crimes.

“We are prepared to put this case in front of a judge or a jury and let them make the determination about what the outcome ought to be.”


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Gallery: Procession for Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson

Gallery: Procession for Tulsa Police Sergeant Craig Johnson

Harrison Grimwood contributed to this story.


News
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Community organizations continue to feed Tulsans through lasting pandemic effects

Restaurants are reopening, traffic is buzzing again and gatherings are back on, but hunger remains a problem for many Tulsans suffering lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to complex coordination across multiple community organizations, individuals and families in need of immediate food assistance still have places to turn.

“In these times, eating healthy is even more important,” Katie Plohocky said.

Plohocky is the executive director of Healthy Community Store Initiative, better known as R&G Family Grocers, which has been orchestrating the receipt and dissemination of tens of thousands of pounds of fresh produce and dry goods to local churches for distribution to those in need since the pandemic hit its stride in early spring.

The COVID-19 relief effort is funded through the George Kaiser Family Foundation and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, and made possible through collaboration with community partners, like the Tulsa Farmers Market and Hunger Free Oklahoma, as well as large scale manufacturers.

Plohocky said R&G’s warehouse has been undergoing a cycle reminiscent of the movie “Groundhog Day” since the program began in late March. It begins each week chock-full of food ready to be divided, bagged and distributed, but by Friday it’s empty, and it’s time to “do it again,” she said.

Each week at R&G actually begins three to four weeks prior, Plohocky said, as that’s the timeline for manufacturers struggling with an out-of-whack supply chain. Plohocky said the process is now leveling out but still “a little wonky.”

“At one point, we were re-packaging 900 pounds of peanut butter,” Plohocky said, chuckling.

Then only able to acquire goods in bulk, volunteers, who have since put in at least 1,000 hours of service, scraped the nut butter into 16-ounce to-go containers, Plohocky said, as well as repackaged other bulk goods, like pasta and rice, for distribution. Now, the organization is able to purchase products packaged for more individual sales.

This week, they expect to pass along 1,800 bags, or 36,000 pounds of groceries, to local churches for distribution.

Plohocky said Tuesday the program was funded at least through the end of July, but there’s discussion about continuing through August because “we don’t see the need going away.”

First Baptist Church North Tulsa Deacon Darrell Walker, who oversees his church’s partnership with the program, said he sees that need met and returned with gratitude every week.

“Oh, yes — we see tears,” he told the Tulsa World. “We don’t ever have anything left over.”

FBC North Tulsa is one of about 15 churches scattered across north, east, south and west Tulsa participating in the program, which Walker said benefits anyone in the community who needs food.

Each church partner has varying pick-up dates and times, and a list of participating organizations is available at tulsarealgoodfood.org/covid19.

For FBC North Tulsa, a successful start passing out 60 bags of produce and dry goods, or offerings, as Walker calls them, has been upped to volunteers passing out enough for 180 families.

Their pickup is drive-through, beginning at 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday through July 29 at the church, 1414 N. Greenwood Ave. With enough volunteers to work six cars at a time, Walker said the pass-out is usually finished in about 45 minutes.

But Walker’s heart is with those who aren’t able to make the drive to pick up food.

Transportation is a common barrier, and Walker said many families come through the line on behalf of others who couldn’t make the drive.

He’s even seen physicians come through for their patients, he said.

Volunteers also dedicate time and bags for the senior citizen complexes the church serves.

About a month into the operation, Walker said Hunger Free Oklahoma offered some frozen meals prepared by local restaurant workers to pass out to families. Tomorrow, he expects to pass out more than 1,000.

Families get a bag of fresh produce, a bag of dry goods and a bag of frozen meals; usually five to 10 of them.

“Some of them have that many people in their families,” he said. “So it gets them through one or two days.“

The frozen meals are provided through Hunger Free Oklahoma’s Tulsa Kitchens Unite program, which quickly bridged the gap between restaurant workers who needed work and people who needed food when businesses shuttered in the pandemic.

Fully funded for 12 weeks, the program produced 336,900 meals through more than 19,400 work hours in 23 partner kitchens, according to numbers the organization released. And through 4,400 volunteer hours, meals were distributed at 34 Tulsa Public Schools, two Union Public Schools and 19 community partner organizations.

The full-scale program ended June 26, when program leadership decided to spread out dwindling funds over four weeks of small-scale operations, instead of one week of large-scale efforts, Hunger Free Oklahoma Executive Director Chris Bernard said.

Even at a small scale, the program still pumps out 6,600 meals a week to about 15 community organizations.

Bernard wishes the program could continue to support even more restaurant workers and community members in need. None of its kitchen partners are back where they were pre-pandemic, he said.

“There’s this impression that since things are opening back up that business is booming,” he said. “And for most of them, that is not true at all.”

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Local
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COVID-19: New records reached for daily case increases in Oklahoma, Tulsa County

With 858 new COVID-19 cases reported in Oklahoma on Tuesday, the state has set a new record for the number of new cases reported in a single day and has landed on New York’s travel advisory list.

Oklahoma’s last peaks were reported on June 30 and July 4, with 585 and 580 new cases, respectively.

The state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases has grown to a new high of 495. In Tulsa County the seven-day rolling average continued to climb back toward a previous high, 147.6 on June 25, reaching 134.4 on Monday.

From Tuesday’s spike, 261 of the new cases were reported in Tulsa County. That marks the highest reporting day yet for Tulsa County, with a previous high of 259 on June 23, according to state data. The Tulsa Health Department reports 1,000 active cases, an increase of about 9%, across the county.

Oklahoma’s COVID-19 increases have put the state on New York’s travel advisory list, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

New York state currently has a list of 19 states, “all of which have significant community spread,” that officials say meet the metrics to qualify for travel advisories. Travelers from those states must quarantine for 14 days upon entering New York.

The quarantine applies to any person arriving in New York from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.

Oklahoma’s overall cumulative positive testing rate is 5%, a state report says.

State health officials also reported five new deaths from across Oklahoma on Tuesday. Residents from Carter, Delaware, Garvin, McCurtain and Muskogee counties died recently from the disease, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health data. All except one, a Garvin County man, were older than 65. The man from Garvin County was in the 50-64 age group.

The most recent series of deaths pushes the state’s accounting of COVID-19 deaths to 404. However, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which lag behind local reporting, indicate that 415 Oklahomans have died from the disease. The difference was not explained.

A revised Tulsa County report includes 71 fatal COVID-19 cases; officials say the decline from the county’s previous death toll is due to an address change.

State health officials also report high numbers of people hospitalized due to the disease. COVID-19-related hospitalizations on Tuesday stood at 458 patients, the highest total since early April. Of those patients, 178 are in intensive care and 126 are being evaluated for potentially having the virus, according to the state’s executive order report.

Almost 3,300 Tulsa County patients are considered recovered, according to Tulsa Health Department data.

Until this spike, hospitalizations had not exceeded 400 since April.

An Oklahoma City hospital announced Tuesday that it is reopening a shuttered facility to make room for more patients, according to a report from The Oklahoman.

Due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Integris Baptist Medical Center announced that it would reopen its Portland campus, which temporarily closed in April.

“As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rapidly increase across the state, the Northwest Expressway campus of Integris Baptist Medical Center is experiencing capacity constraints,” said Integris spokeswoman Brooke Cayot. “To continue caring for our patients with non-COVID-19 needs and the growing number of COVID-19 patients, we have decided to open our Portland campus.”

The Portland Avenue campus was a key component of the state’s hospital “surge” plan and was to be used if the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients surged beyond the state’s existing hospital capacity. The state terminated its lease with Integris, effective June 30, The Oklahoman reported.

Baylee Lakey, spokeswoman for Gov. Kevin Stitt, said that “the governor continues to receive regular updates from the team at (the Oklahoma State Department of Health), who is actively working to combat COVID-19 and provide Oklahomans with the most up-to-date info.”

“Currently, OSDH is developing a color-coded map that will help provide additional public health guidance for Oklahoma counties and communities. The governor remains fully focused on the health and safety of Oklahomans while also supporting businesses that are going above and beyond to protect their customers and neighbors as they safely reopen,” Lakey said.

Bruce Dart, Tulsa Health Department executive director, cautioned last week that if people fail to normalize mask-wearing, hand washing and physical distancing, then “we have great potential to be overwhelmed” in the public-health and health-care systems.

COVID-19 is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, so public health officials encourage people to wear a mask or cloth face covering and to stay at least 6 feet from other people who don’t live with them.

Masks are vital when social distancing is difficult. A snug fit that covers the mouth and nose is the most effective, according to public health officials.

In addition, people should avoid being in group or mass gatherings.

Frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and water or use of hand sanitizer also can help prevent the spread of the disease, health experts say.

Those seeking to be tested for COVID-19 may find resources on the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s website, where testing sites are listed by county.


Local
Despite COVID-19 and a budget crunch, state colleges are trying 'to keep higher education affordable for Oklahoma'

Despite COVID-19 putting campuses in a financial strain, the average Oklahoma college student will pay only $80 more this year in tuition and mandatory fees, according to data from higher-education officials.

State regents have approved tuition and fee hikes that average out to 1.3% statewide for the 2020-21 academic year. But most of the increases will come at regional universities and community colleges.

The state’s biggest higher-ed institutions, including the University of Oklahoma’s main campus in Norman and Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, won’t increase tuition and fees at all, officials said.

“Our public colleges and universities continue to work tirelessly to keep higher education affordable for Oklahoma citizens,” said higher-ed Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “It’s been an extremely difficult budget year for our state.”

Oklahoma’s community colleges will increase in-state tuition and mandatory fee rates by an average of 2.2%. But Tulsa Community College will buck the trend by keeping tuition flat, officials said.

Instead, TCC has addressed the budget crunch by slashing 27 full-time positions, furloughing 162 part-time employees and leaving 33 open positions vacant, officials said.

“The decision was not made lightly,” said President Leigh Goodson, “but is necessary to keep TCC lean and flexible as we address the changing needs of the college.”

Likewise, Northeastern State University has announced that tuition and mandatory fees will not increase for the upcoming school year, despite continued decreases in state appropriations. Increases will average 1% at other regional universities for in-state undergraduates.

COVID-19 has contributed to a decrease in state funding this year, said NSU President Steve Turner. But the pandemic might not explain the entire budget gap.

For perspective, NSU will receive about $11.7 million less for fiscal year 2021 than it did 13 years ago, Turner said.

“We want to support our students and their families who have been negatively impacted by the virus and the subsequently weakened economy,” he said, “by keeping tuition affordable and making a college degree accessible.” Along with no increase in tuition, NSU’s scholarship funding will remain the same as last year, Turner said.

Statewide, tuition waivers and scholarships will increase 3.3% from last year, higher-ed officials said. State law requires that regent make “a reasonable effort” to increase financial aid proportionately with tuition and fee increases.


 

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