A Tulsa police officer pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to illegally buying a gun for her boyfriend, who was later arrested on state charges.
Officer Latoya Dythe, who has been out of the police academy less than three years and was assigned to the chief’s office as a community resource officer, has been suspended without pay since at least December, when her indictment via a federal grand jury was unsealed.
As part of a plea agreement, the 26-year-old pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make a false statement to a firearms dealer and making a false statement to a firearms dealer. She remains on bond pending sentencing July 15, where she will face a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment for each count, three years of supervised release and a fine not to exceed $250,000.
The felonies stemmed from a straw purchase of a firearm for alleged co-conspirator Devon Jones at the Broken Arrow Bass Pro Shops store in April 2020. The straw purchase of a firearm, or buying a gun for someone who can’t by law or doesn’t want their name associated with the purchase, is a federal crime.
Jones, whom Dythe identified as her boyfriend in a separate stateside case, is alleged to have picked out a single-action pistol, an FN Herstal FN Five-seveN, and to have given Dythe cash to make the purchase. The pistol carries a manufacturer suggested retail price of about $1,200.
When a shop employee asked Dythe whether the gun was for her, she said it was and “that she was a police officer and knew the law.” She also showed the employee a card that identified her as an officer and signed a form stating that she was purchasing the gun for herself.
In the parking lot, she gave the gun to Jones for his keeping.
Dythe later admitted that she knew her actions were illegal when she committed the crime, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
“The public rightfully expects more from those who have sworn to serve,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold. “Latoya Dythe’s actions violated the public’s trust and I’m thankful for our federal, state and local law enforcement partners’ hard work to ensure this type of behavior is not tolerated.”
Upon the unsealing of Dythe’s indictment, former U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin notified him of the investigation into the purchase after the department’s Crime Gun Unit picked it up under the 2150 Initiative, which launched in September and seeks to combat violent crime by focusing efforts on prohibited persons in possession of firearms as well as straw purchasers.
Its name reflects the badge number of the late Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson, who was fatally shot with an illegally obtained gun during a traffic stop last June.
Jones, 28, is facing the same false-statement charges and remains in the Tulsa County jail on an FBI hold. He has not yet made an appearance in the federal case, according to online court records, and is currently in district court proceedings after being accused in two felony cases.
A few months after Dythe gave the gun to Jones, he was allegedly involved in a shooting that wounded at least one man at a south Tulsa apartment complex.
A co-defendant in the case told police the shooting took place when he, along with Jones and two other men, went to confront the victim about a pistol he supposedly stole from Jones, according to a probable cause affidavit.
They arrived outside an overnight apartment party near 61st Street and Memorial Drive early Aug. 6, 2020, and demanded that a man standing outside tell them their target’s whereabouts. When “not given the answer they were looking for,” they began attempting to kick down the door of an apartment they thought he might be in, another affidavit states.
They then returned to the man and allegedly robbed him of his shoes, and, upon seeing their intended target peeking out of the window of another apartment, two of the men, not including Jones, fired multiple rounds into the building, the co-defendant stated.
His state charges included shooting with intent to kill, conspiracy to commit a felony, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The latter two have since been dropped due to a witness’s failure to appear.
It’s unclear whether the pistol the group was reportedly trying to recoup was the one which Dythe purchased for Jones.
Except in official duties or when unavoidable because of family ties, Tulsa Police Department employees are not to knowingly associate with individuals known or suspected of current criminal activity, according to TPD policy.
Jones had no criminal record in the state prior to the alleged encounter, according to online district court records.
For now, Dythe’s status with the department remains unchanged, Tulsa Police Capt. Richard Meulenberg said. She will remain suspended without pay until the department’s internal investigation is complete, which is beginning as the criminal case closes.
Tulsa Police Officer charged with making false statements to a firearms dealer