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The off-the-clock stop that started it all; Jannie Ligons' allegations

(by Brian Bates – last updated 2/19/2016) — Everyone involved agrees, it was Jun. 18, 2014, a Wednesday, just after 2 a.m. when a 57-year-old grandmother and a 27-year-old Oklahoma City police officer would have an all too common encounter that would become anything but — and change both of their lives forever.

Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw had just ended his 12-hour shift and was leaving the Springlake briefing station when he turned off his take-home patrol car’s computer and Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL – think GPS) – a violation of not only OCPD policy, but also a Chief’s Directive, emailed and acknowledged by all officers.

As the evidence in the months to come would bear, Holtzclaw had a habit of being lax with many police policies put in place for officer safety.

Jannie Ligons had been at a male friend’s home, playing dominoes and cards, smoking marijuana, possibly drinking alcohol and taking over-the-counter pain medication – making her so tired that she later admitted to having to take a brief nap around 12:30 that morning.

Just before two in the morning, Ligons decided to make her way home across town – where she lived with another man, in her adult daughter’s home, with her daughter and her daughter’s own often live-in boyfriend and the daughter’s two children.

Jannie Ligons how she appeared the morning of her alleged assault.

Jannie Ligons how she appeared the morning of her alleged assault.

Ligons needed to hurry home because she was driving the couple’s only car and her boyfriend needed to leave for work just before 5 a.m. at Chesapeake Energy, where he was employed in food service.

Holtzclaw had just finished his shift, was tired, and ready to drive across town to his own home – where his girlfriend of six months had slept-over and was there waiting for him.

As Holtzclaw turned and headed westbound on NE 50th from Prospect, he noticed a vehicle ahead of him – it was Ligons, in her red 2004 Pontiac Grand Am. They were both headed towards Lincoln Blvd., where each would turn right and merge onto Interstate 44 and be on their way – if only fate hadn’t put them both on that street at the exact same moment in time.

What happens next depends on whose story you believe – because the only witness is a grainy surveillance video (link to article regarding surveillance video).

 

Ligons would retell her story; first to her family, then to officers out on patrol, to a sex crimes detective, and finally under oath at trial.

Holtzclaw will recount what happened that night, hours later, during a two hour video recorded interrogation. That interrogation was conducted by sex crimes detectives Kim Davis and Rocky Gregory. Holtzclaw has also recounted to me, many times, his version of events.

Ligons testified that Holtzclaw appeared in her rearview mirror, then pulled up along side her, profiled her as a black female all alone, fell back and pulled her over.

A claim that is hard to believe considering the street is unlit and Ligons’ vehicle has dark tinted windows.

Jannie Ligons' 2004 Grand Am.

Holtzclaw claims that while behind Ligons’ vehicle he observes it swerving, pulls up behind (never beside) and engages his overhead strobes at a lighted and elevated intersection to initiate the stop.

Regardless, both agree that Ligons was pulled over and did indeed stop just west of the intersection of NE 50th and N. Lincoln Blvd.

Red = Ligons' vehicle. Blue = Holtzclaw's patrol car.

Holtzclaw, every bit of 6′ 1″ and a sculpted 240 lbs. was a former standout Michigan Univ. linebacker, known as an officer extremely confident in his ability to handle himself and didn’t feel a need to turn his cruiser’s computer back on to run Ligons’ tag before approaching her vehicle. Holtzclaw was off-duty, wanted to make certain the driver he’d seen swerving wasn’t inebriated and then hopefully be home within the hour.

Ligons told investigators that Holtzclaw approached her vehicle as she opened the driver’s side door – because her window doesn’t roll down.

Daniel Holtzclaw the day of Ligons' allegations.

Ligons described Holtzclaw as 35-45 years old, 5′ 7″ to 5′ 9″ tall, about 225 lbs. with a “thick” build, blonde hair and skin that “was not smooth.”

Holtzclaw commented, “I saw how you were swerving.” To which Ligons says she protested, “I was not.”

Ligons says she exited her vehicle and followed Holtzclaw – who was walking backwards for his protection – to the rear passenger side seat of his patrol car.

Ligons recalled that Holtzclaw mentions, “You look like you have been drinking.” Ligons protested again, “I haven’t been drinking … its just Kool-Aid” – referring to a cup in her console.

What Ligons doesn’t reveal to Holtzclaw, that is later noted in Sex Crimes Detective Kim Davis’ interview, is that she smoked two marijuana cigarettes prior to driving home and took pain medication designed to aid with sleep.

Holtzclaw later recounts that he thought he could smell alcohol on Ligons’ breath when they were talking to each other.

Holtzclaw says he asked Ligons for her driver’s license and insurance – to which Ligons reveals she only has a state I.D. card and no insurance.

A motor vehicle check conducted on Ligons would later show that her Oklahoma driver’s license had been revoked some 30-years ago.

Holtzclaw says that he asked Ligons “What’s the deal?” [regarding her swerving] and mentions to her that he just got off work.

Ligons says at this point she was ordered to turn around and place her hands on Holtzclaw’s patrol car. Ligons says Holtzclaw briefly pat searched her without incident, opened the rear-side passenger door and had her take a seat.

When asked during his interrogation, Holtzclaw says he never had Ligons place her hands on his vehicle at any time – an assertion that is validated when Holtzclaw’s patrol car is thoroughly processed by crime scene investigators only hours after Ligons’ stop. No fingerprints or DNA belonging to Ligons was found on Holtzclaw’s patrol car.

Holtzclaw told investigators that he did a simple back-handed pat down of Ligons’ back and hips – avoiding her butt – and even had her lift her shirt slightly in front to confirm she didn’t have a weapon concealed in her waistband, and to avoid having to touch her any further.

Holtzclaw says that while Ligons is seated in his patrol car he questioned her about any drugs that might be in her vehicle  – commenting that if he found anything he’d have to take her to jail.

Interior of Jannie Ligons' vehicle.

Holtzclaw says Ligons tells him again about the Kool-Aid and that the only thing in her vehicle are some prescription medications – specifically “Hydrocodone.”

Holtzclaw says he asked for permission to search Ligons’ vehicle. Ligons replied in the affirmative.

Ligons says Holtzclaw returned to her vehicle and appeared to search it – disturbing the contents of her purse and moving her cell phone to the driver’s seat.

Holtzclaw recounts doing a quick search of Ligons’ vehicle, smelling the cup containing Kool-Aid, but not finding anything – minus a couple of prescription bottles. One bottle Holtzclaw recalls was marked Hydrocodone, with Ligons’ name on the label.

Holtzclaw says he returned to Ligons and explained again that he had just gotten off work, was tired, and that he doesn’t want to take her to jail for no SDL (State Driver’s License). Holtzclaw explained to Ligons that she needed to get her license taken care of – going so far as to tell her where she needed to go to get it reinstated.

Holtzclaw described Ligons’ demeanor to the sex crimes detectives as very nervous, upset and even crying. Holtzclaw said when he asked her about how upset she was, Ligons responded that she was just upset about being pulled over and that his gun made her nervous. Holtzclaw also speculated that Ligons may have been upset, thinking her lack of a license and insurance was going to result in an arrest.

Holtzclaw says he assured Ligons that if “nothing is on board” (meaning drugs) and she seemed fit to drive, she’d be good to go shortly.

Ligons’ recollection differs…  saying Holtzclaw returned to her in the back of his patrol car and asked, “How do I know you don’t have anything in your bra?”

Holtzclaw's patrol car on the day of the Ligons traffic stop.

At this point Ligons claims Holtzclaw had her lift her shirt and bra. Ligons claims her breasts were exposed and that Holtzclaw shined his flashlight on them as he stood in the space between his patrol car and the open door.

When asked, Holtzclaw claimed that he inquired about any drugs being hidden on Ligons’ body, specifically in her bra. Holtzclaw says Ligons denied having any contraband but offered to raise her shirt. Holtzclaw said he told her that wouldn’t be necessary.

Holtzclaw told detectives that he did indeed have his flashlight out and did use it while talking to Ligons, but that she never was asked to and never did expose herself to him.

The surveillance video from the scene does appear to backup both Ligons’ and Holtzclaw’s claims that a flashlight was utilized during the stop.

Ligons also claims that at this point she noticed Holtzclaw kept grabbing at his penis and that, “she could tell he was getting an erection.”

Ligons recounts that Holtzclaw wasn’t satisfied and asked her, “How do I know you don’t have anything in your pants?”

Ligons asked, “What, do you want me to take my pants off too?” To which she claims Holtzclaw replied, “yes.”

Ligons says that Holtzclaw then backed up and ordered Ligons out of his car.

Ligons claims she was fearful that Holtzclaw was going to kill her.

Ligons says Holtzclaw next instructed her to pull her pants down. Ligons said she complied – pulling her jeans down to her knees. Ligons says she picked at and shifted her panties – trying to show Holtzclaw she wasn’t concealing anything.

Ligons says she pulled her pants back up and Holtzclaw told her to sit down in his patrol car again.

Ligons claims that as she was sitting down, Holtzclaw made the comment, “Damn, you sure have a big booty.”

Ligons next claims that Holtzclaw unzipped his pants and exposed his erect penis.

Ligons said Holtzclaw then instructed her to turn, facing him, with her feet outside his patrol car.

The rear passenger side of Holtzclaw's patrol vehicle.

Ligons said she started pleading and crying, “Please don’t do this.”

Ligons claims Holtzclaw’s response was to tell her to, “Calm down … Just for a minute or so … I promise I’ll let you go.”

Ligons says she placed Holtzclaw’s penis in her mouth, “for just a few seconds.”

Ligons told investigators she asked Holtzclaw if he was going to shoot her. To which she claims Holtzclaw said, “I’m not going to shoot you. I promise I’ll let you go.”

Ligons stated that Holtzclaw also told her to, “Hurry up. I’m tired. I just got off work.”

At least four vehicles are seen in the surveillance video passing directly by Ligons and Holtzclaw.

Ligons told investigators that at one point Holtzclaw placed his hands on top of his patrol car to shield any passing driver’s view of the alleged sexual assault. Again, as with the claims that ligons had placed her hands on Holtzclaw’s vehicle, the forensics team could find no evidence that Holtzclaw had placed his own hands on the top of his patrol car.

Ligons claims after Holtzclaw put his penis back in her mouth, “for about 10-seconds,”  he stepped back and she stood up. Ligons said she thanked Holtzclaw for ending the assault.

Ligons and Holtzclaw both agree that Holtzclaw said he was going to follow her from SE 50th to Lincoln Blvd. and then north to Interstate 44.

Ligons says she returned to her car, pulled into a parking space and turned around. Ligons claims that Holtzclaw got in front of her vehicle, never followed her and was “flying.”

Holtzclaw readily admitted to detectives that he was impatient with Ligons and decided not to wait on her and turned his vehicle around without following her.

Surveillance video from the scene clearly backs-up Holtzclaw’s version of how the stop ended – Ligons did not “pull into a parking space and turn around” as she claims. Instead, Ligons simply pulled forward and made a u-turn.

Holtzclaw obviously disputes most of Ligons’ version of events and claims there was nothing done on his part that violated the law – let alone rose to the level of a sexual assault. Holtzclaw explained to sex crimes detectives that while he thought Ligons had been drinking, he didn’t think she was over the legal limit, he wanted to go home, so he simply cut her loose.

When asked, Holtzclaw estimates the Ligons traffic stop lasted 15-minutes – an estimation that matches the timestamp on the surveillance video.

Ligons said she drove home to her daughter’s home in the 2600 block of N. Anne Arbor Avenue.

Ligons told detectives that when she arrived home she woke up her daughter, Marisha Lashawn Ligons, and told her what happened. According to Ligons, Marisha started calling the Springlake Police Station, but nobody answered.

Ligons said that Marisha and her boyfriend and Marisha’s kids all got into their car and drove to the Springlake Police Station – but “nobody was there.”

Map showing proximity of flagged down officers to Ligons' original traffic stop.

Ligons told detectives that they next began driving home “with plans  of calling her cousin” – Anthony Carter – an Oklahoma City police officer. While in route they spotted a couple of Oklahoma City patrol cars parked next to each other, only a few of blocks from where Ligons claims she was assaulted. They pulled up to the officers and reported the alleged assault.

Each family member gave slightly different versions of the events immediately following Ligons’ alleged assault.

Marisha, 33, stated that her mother has lived with her since Nov. of 2013.

On the night of the Ligons stop, Marisha claims she was in bed when her mother arrived home around 2:42 a.m.

Marisha says that her mother came into her bedroom and was upset and crying – describing her acting like “a scared little child.”

Marisha told detectives that her mother told her that Holtzclaw threatened to take her to jail if she didn’t “give him head” – an allegation not noted in Ligons’ statement.

Marisha said her mother initially thought Holtzclaw had taken her cell phone, but later realized she was sitting on it.

Marisha recounted how she first tried calling the Springlake Police Station but nobody answered. She said she then called and reached someone at the Hefner station – but was told she needed to talk to someone at Springlake.

Marisa said they drove to the Springlake Police Station but nobody was there.

While driving back, Marisha says they noticed three Oklahoma City patrol cars parked in a parking lot near the Lincoln Inn. They decided to approach them. When Ligons confirmed none of the officers was Holtzclaw they stopped and made a report.

Detectives also interviewed Frances Carter, Jannie Ligons’ cousin.

Frances claims that she received a call from Ligons around 3 a.m. and that she told her she had been assaulted by an Oklahoma City police officer. Frances said that Ligons said they had been to the Springlake station and couldn’t reach anyone. Frances said that Ligons wanted her to call her son – Anthony ‘Tony’ Carter – who is an Oklahoma City police officer, and ask him what to do.

Frances was able to reach Tony on the phone and he instructed her to tell Ligons to call 911 and the police would come to them.

Frances said she called Ligons back and relayed Tony’s message.

Frances says that she asked Ligons why she didn’t bite Holtzclaw’s penis off. Frances said that Ligons responded by saying Holtzclaw kept his hand on his holstered service revolver the entire time – another allegation never revealed by Ligons to investigators.

You will recall that Ligons told investigators that she planned to call Tony for advice but ran into other officers first and never made the call.

At trial, Ligons appeared to recall the phone call to Tony. When asked why the family didn’t simply call 911 as instructed to do, Ligons insisted Tony simply said to, “call police.”

Tony testified under oath he was certain he told them to, “call 911.”

The individual whose story changed the most is Jannie Ligons’ frequent live-in boyfriend, Richard Cecil Long Jr., 52.

Long, who was never even mentioned in Jannie or Marisha’s initial statements, originally told detectives that around 3 a.m. Ligons came home and was upset and crying.

Long claimed that Jannie then woke up Marisha and told her about the assault.

Long said that he, Marisha and Ligons all drove to the Springlake Police Station in two cars.

Long said that when they couldn’t reach anyone at Springlake he headed to work with the understanding that Ligons would go home and try to call the police station after it opened.

At trial however, Long came up with a more elaborate story. Long claimed that Ligons had called him while she was headed home after being allegedly assaulted by Holtzclaw (a claim not supported by prior testimony or phone records). Long said he was so upset by what Ligons told him that he was waiting for her in the front yard.

Long claims they then woke up Marisha and all headed to Springlake in two vehicles.

Long testified that after leaving Springlake, he followed Ligons, Marshia and her boyfriend until they saw the patrol cars parked near the Lincoln Inn.

Long claims that he made certain none of the officers were Holtzclaw and then he headed to work.

At trial Marisha and Jannie Ligons’ testimonies did not match Longs. In fact, Marisha indicated that Long simply left for work after hearing that his girlfriend of 20-years had been raped by an Oklahoma City police officer.

Ligons’ report set off a chain of events that would result in Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw eventually being charged with 36 criminal complaints, stemming from 13 accusers, that would identify 17 alleged crime scenes.

Specifically regarding Ligons; Holtzclaw was charged with and convicted of procuring lewd exhibition (5 years) and forcible oral sodomy (16 years). This, despite the total lack of any witnesses or even a single piece direct evidence proving any crime had been committed.

In the end, Daniel Holtzclaw would be tried and convicted of 18 of the criminal charges by 8 of the accusers and sentenced to 263 years in prison.


Additional Resources:

  1. Jannie Ligons home page. (link)
  2. Holtzclaw.com takes a closer look at the Jannie Ligons allegations (link).
  3. The Jannie Ligons alleged sexual assault timeline (link).
  4. The surveillance video of the Jannie Ligons traffic stop and alleged sexual assault (link).