For city man, no apology and less than full transparency in response to police dog biting incident and home invasion

OKLAHOMA CITY – It rained a lot in Oklahoma City this May, but no rain was falling at about 9:30 p.m. on the evening of Wednesday, May 20.

Jon Sellers was inside his apartment on N.W. 26 Street, sitting near the front door. He was talking about business on the telephone with his brother Davis, who lives in Drumwright.

Jon recounts, in an interview, that as he talked he saw lights flash by the window facing west in his home. He thought it might be a police helicopter, which often makes its rounds above the area.

Suddenly he said to his brother, “Somebody’s coming in.”

Davis said he heard over the phone a sharp intake of breath, perhaps the word “Ow.” Then, Davis thinks he heard a cough or a sigh.

Something had happened, but Davis did not know what.

He listened and asked repeatedly if his brother was still on the line. Eventually, the phone went dead.

Jon Sellers remembers he saw something move like a blur into his living quarters, then almost immediately exit. Soon, Jon noticed he was bleeding, but did not feel as much pain, he recalled later, as might have been expected.

Wondering if he’d been shot or stabbed, he grabbed his car keys and headed to his vehicle. There was no sign of anyone immediately outside his abode.

He started his car, moved down his drive and into N.W. 26 Street, turning west toward Classen Blvd.

He noticed two things.

First, “I was bleeding like hell.”

Second, there was a police car blocking the end of the street, its lights flashing.

Sellers traveled past two home lots, got out of his car and headed toward the law enforcement vehicle. Sellers was concerned, despite the absence of significant pain, “I might bleed out.”

That is, bleed to death.

Meanwhile, Davis had called the Oklahoma City Police Department. He spoke with a woman working as dispatcher that night. 

In a recording of the conversation, David tells the woman what he knew, and asked if she could have someone check things out at his brother’s address. She promised to do so.

Sellers, a retired attorney, said he pounded on the hood of the police vehicle with flashing lights to get attention.

A computer incident report dated May 20, beginning at 9:35:15 p.m. (21:35:15) relates an officer had keyed a message: “Male just came up bleeding/Need EMSA.”

Within a couple of minutes, the transcript relates, the officer indicated the person with whom he was talking “doesn’t know what it [the wound] is.”

Sellers remembers telling the officer he might have been a shot, or stabbed with a knife. But soon, he recounts, as he thought about that “blur” he surmised, “Maybe it was a dog.”

Officer Jason Suitor, in a formal report dated May 23 at 5:05 p.m., said he “was assisting K-8 (canine unit) with a perimeter for a suspect that had fled during a search warrant. … Suspect had fled to the west from the search warrant location.” Suitor said “a tan vehicle” (Sellers’ car) approached his position, and a male stepped out.
“I observed a large amount of fresh blood on the front of his shirt and pants.”

Suitor noted Sellers had heard a noise at his door, then “saw a flash and felt something stab into his chest.” He quotes Sellers saying, “It was like a dog or something,” but then said he was “stabbed with something in the chest through his door.”

The written report from May 23 gave an incorrect law office address for Sellers, who has been retired for several years. The incident was categorized as “Acc Dog Bite.”

In Officer Suitor’s description of the conversation, he asked Sellers about the flash or blur he had seen. Suitor said the latter replied “it could have been a muzzle flash, and that he was shot in the chest.” Sellers told Suitor there was no one in his house.

Officer Suitor says Sellers “gave me verbal consent to search his house for occupants.”

However, Sellers contends he never gave such permission.

Officer Suitor observed the wound, saying “it was approximately (four) inches to the left of the center of his chest at his nipple line,” that is, on the injured man’s left side.

Suitor’s report ends saying Sellers was transported to Presbyterian Hospital. He pushed Sellers’ car out of the way, “secured the vehicle” and gave the key to his lieutenant to return to Sellers at the hospital.

In a recording of police chatter that took place at the time of the incident the voice of an officer, presumably Suitor, says over the air he had been approached by a man, and that his presence was “probably related to the guy we saw running north on Military” that “we couldn’t find.”

Another officer can be heard asking if the man’s head is shaved.” The first officer responded, “it’s not your guy.”

Before the recording ends, the same officer tells colleagues, “He’s got a visible wound” and that “it might be a gun shot wound.” However, he was “not sure if he got shot.”

Several minutes after his first call to the Oklahoma City Police Department, Davis Sellers again telephoned the same dispatch number. The woman at the other end did not indicate she’d found anything out at that point.

During the call, Davis received a new, incoming call. He thought it might be his brother. He put the dispatcher on hold, and after several minutes the phone went dead.

Davis Sellers related, in an interview, the incoming call had come from Presbyterian Hospital, informing him his brother Jon was in emergency care.

On May 15, in Oklahoma County District Court, an affidavit provided by a sergeant in the Oklahoma City Police Department had asked for authorization to search a home several doors away from Jon Sellers apartment in the 1200 block of N.W. 26 Street.

The affidavit said that at the property were “Methamphetamine” and paraphernalia related to “sale, manufacture and consumption” of meth, “including but not limited to, scales, baggies, pipes, glassware, tubing, screes and filters, cutting agents, sifters, grinders, etc., records, papers, notebooks, and monies derived from sale of illegal narcotics.”

A judge found probable cause based on the affidavit and issued the appropriate warrant.

On May 29, Sgt. Taylor Shaw, who executed the warrant for 1139 N.W. 39 on the night of May 20, reported the following items were found by officers:

1. 174.43 grams of methamphetamine
2. $1,451.00 in cash
3. 6 surveillance cameras
4. 9 items of Dominio and control documents
5. 3 digital scales
6. 2 glass bongs
7. 1 Crown Royal Bag w/several plastic baggies
8. 1 box of sandwhich baggies
10. OK ID for Tyrone Baker and Ilona McChensney
11. 1 item of military body armor

Sellers recalls several visits or phone calls from police officers during his stay at Presbyterian. And, he had phone conversations (his cell phone had been returned) with officers during a subsequent rehabilitation stay at a different facility.

He says officers took pictures of his wounds and discussed the incident with him in no great detail.

At one point, he recounts, an officer told him the man in charge of the police dog “felt terrible” about what had happened to Sellers.

In response to an open records request from this reporter and Jacqueline M. Short, acting as attorney for The City Sentinel newspaper and the news website, many records or recordings, including those referenced above, were provided.

However, the Oklahoma City Police Department withheld some records, including photographs of Jon Sellers’ wounds taken just after the dog bite. Further, in response to a request for copies of the police department’s policy when entering a citizen’s residence and announcing presence, a lawyer with the city’s municipal counselor’s office asserted, “The OCPD did not enter any one’s property until after” the dog “bit Mr. Sanders.” (sic)

Richard C. Smith, litigation division head for the office of municipal counselor Kenneth Jordan, wrote to Ms. Short on July 2, “There is nothing in the Act that requires the police department to release to an attorney for the media (or anyone else), photographs of a dog bite. There is nothing that requires that a law enforcement agency release copies of internal reports regarding a dog bite. Further, because those reports are part of an internal personnel investigation, the Act deems them to be confidential.”

The City Sentinel newspaper and news website submitted open records requests based on the assumption that police, executing the aforementioned warrant and perhaps in pursuit of residents fleeing the indicated address, approached Jon Sellers’ apartment, and that a police dog entered the apartment.

Sellers heard noises outside, as he told his brother, but did not hear an announcement that anyone, or any creature, was entering his residence.

He was bitten by a dog under police control, although that has never been formally admitted by anyone with the department.

Nor has any formal apology, offer of restitution, or report of remedial action been received by Mr. Sellers, as of July 20, 2015.