CAUGHT ON CAMERA: OHP defends its use of force in traffic incident
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says its troopers were doing everything by the book when they smashed a driver's window and hit the driver with a night stick for being non-compliant. According to a highway patrol spokesman, the troopers thought the man was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but later found out he was having a medical episode.
The incident was all caught on camera.
"To me, it seemed aggressive," said the man who shot the video. He doesn't want to be named.
It happened on the Turner Turnpike, just before the Luther Exit (Mile Marker 146) at around 3:00 a.m. Thursday. The witness told FOX 25 he was working construction in the area when others saw a car swerve and get stuck in an eastbound ditch. He says they went to check on the driver.
"Half of his body was slouched over and he was sweating, constantly sweating," he said. He told FOX 25, the man didn't show any signs of being intoxicated.
Once they saw he was alive, he says they called for help. Two Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers arrived about five minutes later, he said.
"Officer safety is paramount in a situation like that," Capt. Paul Timmons said. "It's three o'clock in the morning and you're dealing with a bunch of unknowns."
In the video, you can see troopers demand the guy to put his car in park. The man seems to be in a dazed state and doesn't comply. Soon after, one trooper smashes the driver's side window and tells the other trooper to smash the passenger side. You can also see the trooper strike the driver at least twice with his night stick while trying to get him to obey instructions.
After about thirty seconds, the troopers yanked the driver out, threw him on the ground and put him in handcuffs. Soon after, Timmons said, they realized he wasn't intoxicated and was having a medical episode.
"You have to take control of the situation and make sure it's done in a safe way for everyone involved. That includes the troopers, the driver and anybody on scene," he said.
According to Timmons, the man initially exhibited all the signs of someone being impaired. He acknowledges that to the blind eye, it may look aggressive, but when considering the situation, the troopers did everything by the book.
"They did what they did because they had to take control of the situation," he said. "Once they figured out it wasn't what they thought it was, they took care of it."
According to Timmons, the troopers immediately called for medical help and got the man the attention he needed. The highway patrol was not able to provide a name or update on the condition of the man.