By Meredith Johnson/Reporter, Braden Harper/Managing Editor
OKMULGEE, Okla. – A Monday, Dec 18 assault at the Okmulgee County jail has resulted in an arrest warrant for a non-tribal Okmulgee County Jail official and has shed light on cooperation issues between Okmulgee County Jail officials and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Lighthorse Police Department.
The assault happened while MCN LHP were attempting to deliver a suspect to the Okmulgee County jail for booking and processing. Not only was the suspect initially refused acceptance to the jail, but a verbal and physical conflict began between MCN LHP and the Okmulgee County Criminal Justice Authority officials.
Bodycam footage released by MCN shows the verbal and physical conflicts between the two law enforcement agencies.
The bodycam footage comes from MCN LHP Officer Aaron Torix. In the footage, OCJ officer Matthew Douglas can be seen and heard refusing to admit the suspect and replying to the MCN LHP request with, “…take him out of my building.” Tim Lawson, the Assistant Director of Okmulgee County Jail Authority can be heard saying, “They’re not going to take him.”
The footage then shows Douglas moving into the control room of the final booking area and is followed by MCN Lighthorse Deputy Chief Dennis Northcross. Obscured by paper, the assault can be seen through the glass window on the door.
As the door opens, MCN LHP Officer Keith Bell can then be heard saying, “Don’t put your hands on me.” Lawson then moves between MCN LHP and OCJA officials.
According to court records, an arrest warrant was issued for Matthew Joseph Douglas on Wednesday, Dec. 20 for the offense of “PROTECTED STATUS BATTERY”. According to the MCN code, Title 14 section 2-303, “The crime of protected status battery is a felony and occurs when all of the elements of battery are present and, in addition, it is knowingly committed against: 1. Law enforcement officials, referees or umpires, teachers or school officials, during performance of or relate to their duties.”
LHP officers attempted to serve the arrest warrant to Douglas on Wednesday, Dec. 20. However, they were unable to do so. Douglas was given the opportunity to turn himself in by 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 21. At the time of this publication, Douglas is not currently in LHP custody.
MCN and Okmulgee County Sheriff Office’s Response
The Okmulgee County Sheriff stated that their deputies have been “positive and professional” during the situation. According to the Okmulgee County Sheriff’s Office statement,
“On Monday, December 18, 2023, the Okmulgee County Sheriff’s Office received a call for assistance at the Okmulgee County Jail. The Okmulgee County Jail has its own administration and is overseen by the Okmulgee County Criminal Justice Authority. Upon arrival to the jail, there were 15-20 Muscogee (Creek) Nation Lighthorse Police present. Tribal patrol units had blocked the roadways around the jail and parked tribal units so they blocked on-duty OCSO patrol units in their parking spots, preventing them from responding to emergency calls. The call for assistance at the jail was related to an incident that occurred inside the jail between tribal police officers and jail staff. This situation was calmed, and tribal police left the grounds and the prisoner being presented was accepted after all proper booking procedures were completed.”
The statement goes on to state that a warrant was issued for the arrest of an Okmulgee County Jail official, however no arrest had been made.
Although MCN LHP is not a federal entity, federal laws still grant tribal law enforcement jurisdiction. Wisner asserted that political opinions do not give other law enforcement officers the right to violate laws or assault officers from other agencies.
According to Wisner, this is the first time LHP has had a dispute like this with the Okmulgee County Jail.
“Law enforcement wants the same thing at the end of the day, to be able to go home safely to their families, to be able to police and provide a safe community for all of our children, for our elders, be able to provide a street and a sidewalk that we can safely walk down on and be proud to raise our children. We want that just as much as anyone. We want to work together with other jurisdictions to be able to provide that” Muscogee (Creek) Nation Attorney General Geri Wisner
Currently there are no U.S. Marshals involved with this investigation at this time.
“I think that this is the first layer of an onion, if you will, of a long history of conflict, of racism, and a number of issues that have existed. And we look forward, as a couple of you said, maybe we think it’s necessary. We look forward to pulling those back, because we want justice at the end of the day, the safety of your head and the safety of your welfare.”
As this brings to light issues of tribal jurisdiction and non-cooperation, Mvskoke Media reached out to the office of State Attorney General Drummond and received the following response:
“Attorney General Drummond has been in contact with all parties to ensure a peaceful and lawful resolution.”
MCN AG Wisner’s transcript can be read here.