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Trial reset for man accused in Tulsa police sergeant's killing

Trial reset for man accused in Tulsa police sergeant's killing

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David Ware is led away from a courtroom after an arraignment at the Tulsa County Courthouse on Nov. 2. Ware is still awaiting trial on charges in the shootings of Tulsa Police Officer Aurash Zarkeshan and Sgt. Craig Johnson. Johnson died of his injuries.

The man accused of fatally shooting a Tulsa police sergeant during a traffic stop in 2020 has a new trial date.

David Ware was set to have a jury trial in June on multiple felony charges, including first-degree murder in the slaying of Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson, but the trial was delayed to allow his attorneys additional time to prepare.

Tulsa County District Judge William Musseman on Friday solidified an April 4, 2022, trial start date with prosecutors and attorneys, with an admonishment.

“This will take more than one week,” he told them.

Musseman said he expects jury selection alone to take at least one week, if not a few days more, so he advised Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler and Ware’s attorney, Kevin Adams, that he was keeping his schedule for the month free.

He also addressed Ware, 34, to ensure that he was in agreement with Adams’ request to replace his second-chair counsel, Johnnie James, with Robert Gifford.

Ware acknowledged that the change was “fine,” and James told Musseman he was also in agreement, Musseman said, citing some kind of relational issue with Adams.

To end the status hearing Friday, Kunzweiler reminded the court that the defense has not yet shared any discovery with prosecution, despite the delay in the trial and despite the state’s having shared hundreds of pages of discovery along with other evidence such as video recordings and interviews.

Kunzweiler later said he found the matter “a bit frustrating.”

“It’s been 15 months since Sgt. Johnson lost his life and Officer Zarkeshan was shot,” Kunzweiler said. “It’s been very difficult on those families, and obviously they’ve been anxious to get moving forward, as we have.”

Adams said the reason discovery has not been shared is because the defense’s mitigation specialists are still compiling mitigation evidence.

The shooting at the center of the case occurred during the overnight hours June 29, 2020, near 21st Street and 89th East Avenue after Zarkeshan pulled Ware over for an expired tag and improper turn. Johnson backed Zarkeshan, and the officers informed Ware they intended to tow his vehicle, but he refused to get out.

Police dash cam footage shows Ware shooting Zarkeshan and Johnson after Ware refused dozens of commands from the officer and his supervisor, as well as withstood pepper spray, a Taser attempt and body strikes.

Ware can be seen on video grabbing a gun from his vehicle and firing multiple times at the officers before using two hands to stabilize his grip and firing at Johnson a final time, all within less than five seconds.

He then got a ride from his co-defendant, Matthew Nicholas Hall, whom Ware had called from his car during the traffic stop. Both were arrested later that day.

Johnson died the next day after being taken off life support at a Tulsa hospital, and Zarkeshan returned to Tulsa in mid-October 2020 after months of treatment and recovery at an out-of-state facility.

Jurors found Hall guilty of two counts of being an accessory to a felony in April, and Musseman sentenced him to 24 years in custody. He’s currently held in the Jess Dunn Correctional Center in Taft, Department of Corrections online records show.

Ware is held without bond in the Tulsa County jail.

He will next appear in court in December, when Musseman set a discovery hearing to ensure that the defense has made progress in presenting discovery.

Featured video: Tulsa mayor talks about law enforcement in the aftermath of the June 2020 shootings of two officers

Mayor G.T. Bynum gave his remarks at Nov. 19's State of the City, recalling when two police officers were shot in June 2020.


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Staff Writer

I write because I care about people, policing and peace, and I believe the most informed people make the best decisions. I joined the Tulsa World in 2019 and currently cover breaking news. Phone: 918-581-8455

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