About three months before she died in a confrontation with police, Madison Dickson dropped out of a treatment center where she’d been fighting a drug addiction.
Dickson was struck and killed by a Tulsa police cruiser during a firefight with officers following a pursuit that ended near 91st Street and Harvard Avenue on Saturday afternoon. Her death put an end to a weeklong manhunt that resulted from her alleged involvement in a series of gun-related crimes in which two people were shot.
Investigators also believe the 21-year-old Tulsa woman’s associates, including the man who drove her during the pursuit, had ties to the Irish Mob, though it was unclear whether she was involved with the gang.
Since Dickson’s demise, Brittany Stieber has struggled to connect the friend she knew to the woman in the news.
“I grieve for the people that have been affected by all this. I pray for everybody, that everybody recovers well,” Stieber said. “But I just want to say Madison wasn’t just that person that’s on the news. Deep down, she was a good person. Drugs just got the best of her. The enemy got the best of her.
“That was not the Madison that I knew.”
Dickson and Stieber, now 22, met in 2015 at the Teen Challenge Freedom House Women’s Center, a long-term faith-based residential facility in Checotah that helps women overcome substance abuse and other life-controlling issues. Both struggled throughout their teenage years with drug addictions. Both fell in with the wrong crowds, Stieber said.
Because of their parallel experiences, the two became best friends and bonded like sisters. They pushed each other to succeed and developed an impenetrable support system.
Stieber described Dickson as one of the funniest people she knew. She was also selfless — never passing up a chance to help with chores or mop up someone’s mess.
“When I first met Madison, I immediately felt attracted to her,” Stieber said. “I felt like we had a lot in common. We come from such different walks of life, but yet we’ve gone through a lot of the same struggles and problems. I don’t consider Madison just a best friend. I consider her blood like family.”
Dickson cried when Stieber graduated from the program in December and moved back to the Oklahoma City area. She left later that month, despite a court mandate that she finish her treatment.
After being charged in 2015 with stealing an Osage County deputy’s patrol vehicle, Dickson wrote a letter to the district judge overseeing her case to apologize for her “reckless and dangerous actions.” In the letter, Dickson cites a lack of parental guidance and asks to be checked into a drug rehab to stay clean.
“I would like a chance to prove that I can function in society and not become a statistic,” she wrote. “... If you could find it to forgive me and give me one last chance I will show everyone that I can succeed and also show myself I am worth something and that I am also worth fighting for.”
The judge obliged and ordered Dickson be taken to the Freedom House to complete its rehabilitation program.
Stieber said she received sporadic phone calls from Dickson after her departure from the women’s center, each time from a different phone number. At first Dickson sounded motivated and passed on Stieber’s suggestions she move to Oklahoma City so she could help her get a job and stay accountable.
As the conversations continued, Stieber said her friend acted less like herself, and it became clear she fell into her old habits. The last call from Dickson came about two weeks ago. Stieber, needing to focus on her own progress, “basically blew her off” because of the strange behavior.
The next time she heard about Dickson was when she received a text from a friend this weekend telling her she was dead. She remembers staring at the message for what felt like 10 minutes, unable to process what she was reading.
“I called the last number she called me from. I called it over and over and kept thinking, ‘This isn’t true. This isn’t true,’” Stieber said. “And then I looked on the news and saw everything. It doesn’t feel real. I’m in shock by everything.”
Dickson stayed sober for the 13 months she lived at the Freedom House and made a genuine effort to change her life around, Stieber said.
But it didn’t last.