MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 5, 2009

Oklahoma trooper facing another investigation

MURRAY EVANS

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said Monday it plans to release dashboard camera video of a second incident involving a trooper suspended earlier this year for using excessive force.

Acknowledging the "high-profile" nature of the case involving Trooper Daniel Martin, patrol spokesman Capt. Chris West said "the decision already has been made" to release video of the incident Saturday night in Holdenville. Martin and fellow trooper Tommy Allen were placed on paid administrative leave after a Holdenville resident said he planned to file a complaint.

In July, Martin received a five-day suspension without pay after scuffling with a paramedic during a traffic stop involving an ambulance. A cell phone video of that scuffle was widely distributed on the Internet, and after initially refusing, the patrol released the dashboard camera video taken from the trooper's cruiser.

The videotapes of the incident in Holdenville — about 75 miles southeast of Oklahoma City — will be released "after we are finished with them for our purposes," West said, citing the continuing investigation. He declined to say when the investigation might be completed.

"The court of public opinion is very negative toward him right now," said Martin's attorney, Gary James of Oklahoma City. "Irrespective of the ambulance case, anytime that Daniel Martin would use force will draw attention. It makes his job hard. I know that he has gone out of his way to really be courteous to people on traffic stops."

Martin said he hasn't watched the video of the incident but believes it will exonerate the troopers.

Kristopher Douglas told Oklahoma City television station KWTV that he was helping with renovations at a friend's house on Saturday when troopers pulled up to handle a traffic stop. Douglas said he was going inside when Martin told him to move away from the house. Douglas said he complied but Martin hit him with a baton while Allen "put a knee in my back."

Douglas' friend, Jerry Ford, who owns the house, speculated that Martin lost his temper.

"When he approached me, he approached me with his chest out and just looked like he was ready to fight," Ford told KWTV.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol offered a different account. West said Allen was making a traffic stop around 7 p.m. and was backed up by Martin.

"In the course of that traffic stop, another individual — not from the vehicle, from a residence — got involved," West said. "He was taken to jail for obstruction."

West said Douglas contacted the patrol Sunday and said he wanted to file a complaint.

"We take all complaints seriously," West said. "We work for the public, so when they think something has happened we will investigate it."

He said the decision to place Martin and Allen on paid administrative leave was "based on the nature of the allegations, coupled with the high-profile nature of what (Martin) was involved in before. We wanted to put them both off."

James said the use of force "was within the legal bounds of the law" and that he believes Martin and Allen will receive a fair hearing during the patrol's investigation.

Richard O'Carroll, the attorney for the paramedic, Maurice White Jr., said he's not surprised that Martin is again facing allegations of using excessive force.

"Mr. White and myself warned them," O'Carroll said. "We were stunned when the commissioner put him back to work. Anybody with half a head would have known that this was going to happen again. It was just a matter of when and where."

White has filed a federal lawsuit against Martin.