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Former Okla. police officers charged after fatally shooting Black man

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 5/9/2022 Julian Mark
Body-camera footage shows a Lawton, Okla., police officer shoot Quadry Sanders on Dec. 5 as Sanders put his hands up. © City of Lawton Body-camera footage shows a Lawton, Okla., police officer shoot Quadry Sanders on Dec. 5 as Sanders put his hands up.

Quadry Sanders had just raised his hands when a police officer shot at him four times, according to graphic body-camera footage of the Dec. 5 scene outside a Lawton, Okla., home. After falling to the ground, Sanders momentarily sat up and raised his hands again, when the officer — along with a second one — fired more shots, officials said.

Sanders, 29, died that night at a hospital, according to the Lawton Police Department.

Now, six months after the incident, the Comanche County district attorney has charged Nathan Ronan and Robert Hinkle, the Lawton police officers who shot and killed Sanders, with first-degree manslaughter, city officials announced Friday. Ronan and Hinkle were fired from the department in early January following an internal investigation.

After reviewing findings from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the district attorney’s office concluded that “the shooting of Quadry Sanders was not justified,” District Attorney Kyle Cabelka said in a statement to KSWO.

Ronan and Hinkle could not be immediately reached late Sunday.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the parents and those in our community who lost a loved one in Quadry Sanders,” Lawton Mayor Stan Booker said in a statement Friday when announcing the charges against the two officers. He added that “the loss of life in our community is always a difficult matter to grasp.”

Lee Merritt, a lawyer for Sanders’s family, wrote on Instagram that he couldn’t “find a single redeemable factor that mitigates any aspect of this shooting.”

“It was just murder,” Merritt added. “There was no justification.”

Sanders was a father of eight and a talented musician, his family told KSWO in December. “He made everybody laugh,” Sanders’s mother, Mina Woods, told the station. “We could all be in a bad mood, ready to fight, ready to cry or whatever, and he would say things that would just send us into all-out laughter.”

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On Dec. 5 around 8:30 p.m., police received a call that Sanders was inside a Lawton residence in violation of a protective order, waving a gun around, the Lawton Police Department said in a statement after the shooting. According to the district attorney’s statement to KSWO, Sanders was refusing to let a person leave. Merritt said Sanders was having a dispute with his girlfriend.

Once police arrived, set up a perimeter and started speaking to Sanders through a speaker, a woman emerged from the house, according to the district attorney’s statement. Shortly after, Sanders also came out from a side door but went back inside before emerging again from the front, according to the Lawton police.

Body-camera footage from one of the officers shows that Sanders walked out with his hands at his sides, holding a baseball cap.

“Hands, hands!” the officer wearing the body camera screamed, according to the video.

Sanders briefly stepped to the side, partially obscured by a refrigerator on the patio, and then put his hands up, the footage shows, just before the officer fired four shots. Sanders fell to the ground and screamed.

“Hands, hands, hands!” the officer wearing the body camera continued to yell. “Quit reaching!”

When Sanders sat up with his hands raised, the officer fired seven more shots, according to the video. The district attorney said in its statement to KSWO that another officer fired four shots. Fifteen rounds total were fired at Sanders, the district attorney said, with 12 hitting him.

Sanders crawled onto steps at the house’s entrance and stopped moving. The officer wearing the body camera then dragged Sanders across the driveway as he lay prone and bleeding. Sanders was handcuffed, and two minutes passed between his being shot and receiving medical aid, according to the footage.

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In April 2021, Ronan was cleared of wrongdoing after he shot and killed another Black man, 24-year-old Zonterious Johnson, who displayed a weapon in a dark alley, three months earlier, according to the Lawton Police Department. Police found a handgun with an empty magazine at the scene.

No weapon was found at the scene where Sanders was shot in December, the district attorney said.

Merritt told KSWO that Sanders’s case is comparable to that of George Floyd, who was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020. Video footage of Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes sparked nationwide protests against police brutality. Merritt said that the manslaughter charges against the former officers who shot Sanders were not enough, and that he wants the district attorney to charge them with murder.

“It really shocks the conscience when you have a chance to see Mr. Sanders literally doing whatever he could to try to save his own life and these officers are operating with such callousness,” Merritt told the station.

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