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Former Oklahoma officers convicted of murder after using Tasers more than 50 times on unarmed man

Brandon Dingman and Joshua Taylor each face 10 years in prison for the murder of 28-year-old Jared Lakey in July 2019

Joshua Taylor, left, and Brandon Dingman were convicted of second-degree murder for using their Tasers more than 50 times in 2019 on Jared Lakey, who later died. (Courtesy: Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation)

Two former Oklahoma police officers were convicted of murder for using their Tasers more than 50 times on an unarmed man who died in 2019, court records show.

Brandon Dingman, 35, and Joshua Taylor, 27, were convicted of second-degree murder Friday in the death of Jared Lakey, 28, with the court ruling that the officers’ repeated use of their Tasers on the man in July 2019 was “dangerous and unnecessary.” Dingman and Taylor’s use of their Tasers played a “substantial factor” in Lakey’s death, according to court records, and “greatly exceeded what would have been necessary or warranted by the attendant circumstances.”

The former officers with the Wilson Police Department in Wilson, Okla., each face 10 years to life in prison on the second-degree-murder charge. The jury in Carter County also found the pair guilty of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Dingman and Taylor are scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 2.

“The Lakey family is grateful to the jury and the District Attorney for the convictions, but the risk to the public remains,” Spencer Bryan, an attorney for Lakey’s family, told The Washington Post in a statement. The family had filed a civil rights lawsuit after medical providers told them that Lakey, whose body was riddled in marks from the Taser shots, died of a heart attack, having suffered more than one. “These officers didn’t violate their policy or training, they tortured Jared precisely because that’s how Wilson, Oklahoma, decided to police the community.”

The Wilson Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Neither Shannon McMurray, an attorney for Dingman, nor Warren Gotcher, an attorney for Taylor, immediately responded to requests for comment. The lawyers told the New York Times that they planned to appeal the convictions. They noted an autopsy report describing how Lakey had an enlarged heart and critical coronary artery disease before he died.

“We’re very disappointed in the verdict,” Gotcher told the Times. “No one could look at him and tell that he had that much of a diseased heart.”

The conviction is yet another incident involving police and their use of Tasers in recent years. A 2017 Reuters investigation found that more than 1,000 people in the United States had died after they were shocked with Tasers or other stun guns by police.

In March, police rushed a 67-year-old man to the hospital after they used a Taser on him while he was handcuffed in Port Allen, La. Two months later, an unarmed 75-year-old Colorado man was Tasered without warning by an officer. The man, Michael Clark, suffered a stroke and a burst appendix, the Associated Press reported. He was hospitalized for weeks, according to the Denver Post, and was later admitted to a nursing facility.

Oklahoma officers charged with murder after using Tasers more than 50 times in man’s death, investigators say

The incident in Wilson, about 100 miles south of Oklahoma City, occurred late July 4, 2019, when Taylor and Dingman responded to a call about a man “acting in a disorderly way,” according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. A public-records lawsuit filed by Lakey’s family found that police responded to a report of a man “screaming and running down the road.” Investigators said Lakey refused to comply with the commands of the officers. That’s when the officers “used their Tasers multiple times,” the state said.

But dashboard-camera and body-camera video obtained by The Post shows the officers using their Tasers 53 times on Lakey while he was detained. According to the officers’ Taser data logs in the court filings, Taylor deployed his weapon 30 times for a total of more than two minutes, while Dingman used his Taser 23 times for just under two minutes total. As the Ardmoreite newspaper noted, “This indicates the victim was Tased for almost four minutes straight” over less than 10 minutes of interaction.

“The video is probably one of the worst things I’ve ever seen,” Spencer told The Post.

Shortly after a Carter County officer arrived to help get Lakey into custody in the early morning hours of July 5, 2019, Lakey stopped breathing and became unresponsive, according to court documents. He was hospitalized for nearly two days and died July 6.

Court records show that his cause of death was listed as a heart attack as well as “law enforcement use of electrical weapon and restraint.”

At the request of Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant, an agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was brought on in 2019 to investigate the officers’ use of force. In reviewing the footage, the agent saw the officers use their Tasers on Lakey dozens of times in nine minutes.

Dingman later told authorities that the officers continued using their Tasers “to attempt to keep [Lakey] from getting up and giving him the opportunity to come at Cpt. Taylor or myself.” But the agent wrote in the affidavit that Lakey never struck police or made any move toward them and that neither officer attempted to control the 28-year-old by placing their hands on him, which went against their training. Taylor had been with the department since 2016; Dingman joined as a full-time officer in 2013.

“The footage reveals numerous instances of both officers using their X26P Tasers to send electrical shocks through [the victim’s] body in an apparent attempt to persuade him to put his hands behind his back as he lay on the ground,” said the agent, according to court documents.

The officers were charged with second-degree murder in July 2020, nearly a year after the encounter. Kevin Coley, chief of the Wilson Police Department, placed Dingman and Taylor on administrative leave, and the two were later terminated.

At the trial last month, Coley testified that the former officers attempted to cause neuromuscular incapacitation, when the electricity from a Taser causes someone’s muscles to freeze up, in Lakey, reported the area’s Fox affiliate, KXII. Coley told the court that the attempt was unsuccessful because Lakey kept moving on the ground, according to the TV station.

“To have a police chief tell the family in open court that torturing Jared was consistent with policy is just too barbaric for words,” Bryan said.

The family’s attorney said that while the pain of losing Lakey will never go away, “the convictions will serve as a reminder going forward that such conduct is utterly intolerable and will not be condoned.” Bryan also called on the Justice Department to examine rural police-brutality cases like Lakey’s that might not get the attention that other cases do.

“Southern Oklahoma isn’t a major metropolitan area, but the people here are just as important as those in Minneapolis or Louisville,” the lawyer said in a statement, referring to the cases of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, respectively. “The DOJ needs to take seriously its duty to protect all Americans and investigate what’s happening to rural America.”

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