WISTER, Okla. -- A Le Flore County man is hoping to have his case heard by a jury in federal court after he alleges police used excessive force during his arrest.
Keith Woolery of Wister claims he was unjustly beaten, hit, kicked and shot at least 11 times with a taser gun by former Police Chief Jordan Westbrook. Westbrook has since resigned his position.
A complaint filed by the plaintiff’s attorney in federal court describes four instances Woolery was reportedly battered by police. The confrontations date back to 2012, but the complaint is set to finally be heard in federal court this year. A judge will decide if the summary judgments will be dismissed or passed on to be heard by a jury.
The first occurrence dates back to June 2012.
“The first incident involved Keith coming back from a local fair,” Tod Mercer, Woolery’s attorney said.
The complaint states Woolery was confronted by former Police Chief Westbrook for allegedly not having tail lights on a horse drawn wagon. Court documents filed by Mercer claim Westbrook called for backup when Woolery would not let go of his mules. It states when other officers arrived on scene, the mules apparently became spooked and backed the wagon into the police chief’s patrol car.
“Westbrook lost it and grabbed Keith off there and beat him up, arrested him, and took off,” Mercer said.
The second confrontation listed in the complaint happened over a year later, and it was all caught on video.
“It sometimes plays in my head,” Woolery said. “I go back and forth through it.”
Woolery said he received a letter from the police chief notifying him to remove “personal property” off of city-owned land before Sept. 23, 2013. Court documents allege when that day came, Wister Police showed up to Woolery’s home with tow trucks to remove his equipment.
In the police body cam video, Westbrook can be heard telling Woolery he was trespassing on city property. The video also shows the former police chief tasing Woolery several times, asking him to stop resisting arrest.
Westbrook’s attorney, Thomas LeBlanc, said the actions used against Woolery were justified. Mercer claims his client suffered 16-19 wounds on his body from the taser.
The video shows Woolery being taken to the ground, tased again, and handcuffed. An officer can be heard on the video using an expletive in referring to Woolery.
The complaint also alleges Westbrook can be heard in the video saying “that was fun,” after the confrontation ended.
Woolery was charged and convicted of trespassing, resisting arrest, assaulting an officer and public intoxication. Those convictions were later appealed in district court and dropped after Mercer said it was determined the land did not actually belong to the City.
In April 2014, court documents state Wister police were investigating a party taking place on Woolery’s rural property.
Woolery said he was notified by police of the investigation, so he drove to the area to ask police why they were there. However, he claims he couldn’t get answers, so he left and started a trackhoe down the road and began clearing brush.
Documents allege officers demanded he get off the equipment before jumping onto the trackhoe and beating Woolery. The incident is also recorded on police body cams.
Westbrook’s attorney said no excessive force was used in this situation and the officers actions were justified.
“They just kept pushing on me,” Woolery said. “No matter what happened, they pushed.“
A few days later, Mercer said Woolery was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery to replace a liver stint, reportedly knocked out as a result of the beating by police.
“I had become septic and my liver had started shutting down,” Woolery said.
The complaint also lists a fourth incident that occurred in May 2014. It states the police chief and other officers went to Woolery’s home to issue a citation of nuisance for a car that had been totaled. Woolery said he gave the title to the insurance company and no longer owned it and was waiting for it to be picked up.
Video shows a confrontation unfold during the interaction between Woolery and police, which ultimately ended with Woolery in the hospital.
His 73-year-old mother was also arrested.
“She started telling them, begging them to stop kicking him in the side, he just had surgery,” Mercer said.
Woolery’s mother was arrested for obstructing justice.
Although Westbrook has resigned, Woolery is looking for more than just a resignation from the former police chief. He feels he was retaliated against after sticking up for people in the town of Wister who experienced similar situations.
“It wasn’t the resignation I was looking for because he went right back to another police department,” Woolery said.
“Officers are there to protect and serve and I think that’s been lost in a large part, and has become a more adversarial relationship with society,” Mercer said.
Mercer said he supports law enforcement, but believes those who do not follow policy should be exposed. The hope is that this case serves as a stepping stone for similar cases so they may be heard and tried in court.
Westbrook’s attorney, LeBlanc, said he is confident the judge will grant the judgment in favor of the officers and the town of Wister. He said he cannot speak further on the case.
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