An Oklahoma police officer has been charged with felony assault after he was seen on video apparently hitting an unarmed suspect repeatedly with the butt of a shotgun, Tulsa World reports.
Owasso Police Lt. Michael Dwain Denton, who had been suspended since the June 14 incident, was charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon—a felony—and reckless conduct with a firearm, a misdemeanor, for his actions during the arrest of Cody Mathews, the news site reports.
Prosecutors blasted Denton for using a shotgun to beat Mathews with "unlawful and felonious intent," while showing a "conscious disregard" for the safety of his fellow officers, thus creating a "situation of unreasonable risk," after he reportedly also struck a uniformed Nowata, Okla., police officer with the end of the weapon, the charges noted, according to Tulsa World.
"Essentially, striking anybody in the head with a hard object is considered deadly force," District Attorney Kevin Buchanan told the World on Friday, the day the charges were announced. "And you can only use deadly force in a circumstance where it's justified."
Mathews reportedly led officers on a high-speed chase in Nowata County. Video released by officials show that after Mathews was stopped, officers approached Mathews' car and a officer broke the driver's-side window. Denton appears to jam the barrel of a shotgun through the broken window multiple times before officers open the door and drag Mathews out on the ground. Denton then proceeds to slam the butt of the weapon toward the ground, presumably onto the suspect, although the camera view is obstructed.
"There are two things that cause me concern, and one is the shotgun barrel through the window," Buchanan told the news site. "He was striking the person that had been stopped with what I'll call the business end of the shotgun, as well as one of [the] police officers who was trying to take that man into custody.
"It is clear that his hands are empty and he is putting them over his head in a defensive manner, and while another officer has got him on the ground on his stomach and one arm under control, [Denton] begins striking him over the head with the gun butt," the district attorney added.
According to Tulsa World, Denton is expected to surrender on Monday.
Denton's attorney, Patrick Hunt, said that he was "confident that a jury will acquit" his client, adding that his client "didn't commit a crime."
This is not the first time Denton has come under scrutiny for his use of force. In 2011 he was actually fired for violating department policy but was later reinstated by an arbitrator, the Tulsa World reports.
Read more at Tulsa World.