Reaction: Hunting Holtzclaw series by The Oklahoman - Chapter Two | A predator in the Ranks

©Oklahoman - Art by Todd Pendleton. Design by Richard Hall & Tim Watson. (Fair Use claim)

6/16/2016 - This is the second of a four-part reaction series to 'Hunting Holtzclaw' as written by reporter Adam Kemp and published by the Oklahoman. You can read part one at this link. You can read the original series as published by The Oklahoman at this link.

While Chapter One | Two Clues introduced us to OCPD sex crimes Detectives Kim Davis and Rocky Gregory and outlined the initial allegations against Daniel Holtzclaw, Chapter Two concentrates on the set-up to the interrogation of Holtzclaw.

REACTION: Chapter Two | A Predator in the ranks

This chapter opens with a glaring inconsistency... "At Oklahoma City police headquarters, the department is scrambling over word that one of their young officers may have sexually assaulted a woman during a traffic stop earlier that morning. The chain of command all the way up to the chief is demanding answers." Wait a minute! Chapter One took greats pains to ensure that readers understood that sexual assault claims against Oklahoma City police officers were very common. Yet, this allegation, with absolutely no witnesses or evidence, has gotten everyone all riled up, all the way to the Chief's office and in less than 24-hours? It simply doesn't make sense and should be a reminder to readers that this series is not about uncovering fact. It's about being entered into journalism award competitions and currying favor for The Oklahoman with the police department and district attorneys office.

Red: Ligons' car. Blue: Holtzclaw's car. Highlighted Area: Surveillance video coverage.

The third paragraph inadvertently points to what should have been another clue that accuser Jannie Ligons' allegations don't make sense. The article discloses that Det. Davis "[canvassed] the scene of the alleged assault near NE 50 and Lincoln Blvd., helping gather security camera footage..." 

Why did it never occur to this seasoned detective (or anyone else) that if the allegations were true, Holtzclaw picked the worst place possible to commit a sexual assault. Holtzclaw and Ligons were at a major intersection and only a mile away from the Springlake Division Police Dept. Furthermore, it was the end of one shift and the start of another, so twice as many police cars would be on the streets and Holtzclaw apparently picked the highest geographic point in the area, with the most street lights and several buildings he knew to have security cameras. Not to mention the very business they stopped in front of had a marked OCPD patrol car in the parking lot and overnight off-duty police security. Holtzclaw, with his flashing strobes, sitting on a hill in one of the most crime ridden areas of the city, was a beacon screaming "look at me, look at me!"

Had Holtzclaw really been planning to sexually assault Ligons, he could have simply let her drive two more blocks and he'd have been in a far more secluded area with no street lights, no buildings with security and cameras and ran much less chance of attracting attention. But none of that was going to keep Det. Davis from getting her man and making a name for herself in the process.

Left: Accuser Terri Morris. Right: Detective Rocky Gregory.

After finding nothing particularly concerning about the alleged assault location, Det. Davis seeks out Det. Gregory because she recalls he "investigated a similar allegation involving an officer and wondered whether the cases might be linked." Specifically Det. Davis remembers that the accuser in that case (Terri Morris) described her attacker as "muscular." 

Three things... A not insignificant percentage of the male officers within the Oklahoma City Police Dept. appear to be not only 'muscular' but also on steroids (something the dept. refuses to test for because they know the shit storm that would create). Second, Morris also described her attacker as 40-years old, with dark skin, and driving an older style patrol car. But, reporter Kemp conveniently left those facts out - most likely because those and other facts didn't fit into the narrative of a cold blooded, guilty as hell, serial sexual predator. In reality, Holtzclaw was only 27-years-old, fair complected and drove one of the more rare newer style patrol cars. Lastly, once again reporter Kemp interjects the Morris allegations without ever informing the reader that Morris later admitted her initial allegations were a lie and Holtzclaw was later acquitted of her revised allegations.

Again, in paragraph 7, reporter Kemp wants to remind readers that Holtzclaw turned off his patrol car's GPS. And, once again, reporter Kemp feels no need to clarify that it was shown that Holtzclaw literally violated the policy at the end of each and every shift - so it has zero bearing on Ligons' allegations.

In the very next paragraph reporter Kemp validates what I've claimed from the beginning - Detectives Davis and Gregory determined Holtzclaw was a serial predator within the first 24-hours. "Sitting in the meeting, listening to the evidence, Davis and Gregory both begin to wonder the same thing. Similar suspect description. Same MO. Is it possible these two incidents are related?  Is it possible they have a predator in the ranks? Davis knows from experience that men involved in these kind of sex crimes usually don’t stop until they’re caught or dead. Is it possible there might be even more victims?"

Reporter Kemp then reveals what was most likely the spark which ignited the destruction of Holtzclaw's career and freedom.... "After the meeting, Muzny pulls Davis aside. He tells her the eyes of the department are on her. In a department already struggling with relations in the minority community, they know how explosive something like this could be."

This is odd and telling at the same time. Again, why is this accusation causing such a stir? We've already been told such allegations are routine. The telling part comes in Lt. Muzny's disclosure that the "department [is] already struggling with relations in the minority community, they know how explosive something like this could be."

Its not secret that I've often said the police department, and in particular Oklahoma City police Chief Bill Citty, were too quick to jump in front of these allegations and throw Holtzclaw under the bus. These statements only validate that detectives were more concerned about community relations than they were Holtzclaw's presumed innocence and right to a fair investigation.

Reporter Kemp spends the next several paragraphs meticulously explaining how investigators forensically examined Ligons' phone and her car for evidence of sexual contact or a sexual assault. What Kemp never bothers to mention is that this thorough examination failed turn up a single piece of evidence that a crime was committed.

Reporter Kemp makes mention of a 2011 case that Det. Gregory worked on and how the sexual assault allegations against another officer divided many within the police department. What Kemp neglects to mention is that it was the incompetent investigative work and the sloppy handling of the case that resulted in 23 of the initial 35 felony counts against the officer being thrown out by the presiding judge. Prosecutors were left with no alternative than to offer the accused officer a mere two-year plea deal. In case you missed it, Det. Gregory worked that case.

Reporter Kemp continues his habit of dangling a suggestive piece of evidence or investigative procedure without bothering to clarify its meaning.

Near the end of Chapter Two... "They tell [Holtzclaw] they need an updated photograph. They’ll use it for a lineup. A crime scene technician snaps the picture. "

What reporter Kemp is well aware of (because he specifically asked me for a copy of the report) is that Det. Davis is so biased against Holtzclaw that she won't even give him the benefit of asking his accuser to pick him out of a photo lineup. 

Excerpt from OCPD Lt. Muzny's report within hours of Ligons' allegations.

In fact, according to police records, only one of Holtzclaw's accusers was ever shown a photo lineup. That accuser was Terri Morris and she was unable to point out Holtzclaw as her attacker. Detectives became so fearful that other accusers wouldn't be able to identify Holtzclaw that they abandoned the use of photo lineups altogether. Yet, reporter Kemp apparently felt that fact was irrelevant.

So, what is the takeaway from 'Chapter Two | A predator in the Ranks'?

  • Even though chapter one made it clear sexual assault allegations against police officers are common, this allegation seems to have unsettled administrators. all the way up to the Chief's office only 24-hours after they've been reported.
  • It becomes clear that the concern over the nature of the allegations is centered around tense race relations between OCPD and the black community.
  • The alleged scene of the Ligons assault makes no sense whatsoever. It's very near the police station, during a shift change and situated on a high profile extremely visible and monitored hill top.
  • Detectives Davis and Gregory immediately determine that Holtzclaw has two victims (Ligons and Morris) and likely more are out there. This, even though its been less than 24-hours since Ligons reported her allegations and not a single witness nor piece of direct evidence had been found.
  • Ligons' cell phone and car were forensically examined by investigators. No evidence was found to validate Ligons' accusations.
  • Holtzclaw's patrol car was impounded and forensically examined. No evidence was found to validate Ligons' accusations.
  • Det. Davis is presented with a photo lineup containing Holtzclaw's photo. Det. Davis refuses to present it to Ligons for positive identification, because "she's not happy [with it]."
  • Once again reporter Kemp makes several references to Morris' assault allegations, yet neglects to inform the reader that Morris' initial complaints were admitted lies and that Holtzclaw was acquitted of all of her allegations.
  • We learn that Det. Gregory worked another high profile case in which an OCPD officer was accused of 35 sexual assault related crimes. That case was so badly handled that it resulted in most of the charges being thrown out and a mere two-year plea deal.