Murder case on officer dismissed
Judge says state failed to show crime happened
A judge has ruled that an officer with The Village Police Department was justified in fatally shooting a man who approached him with a bat.
Chance Avery, 35, faced a felony first-degree manslaughter charge and an amended second-degree murder charge after fatally shooting Christopher Poor, 49, three times July 25, 2020, inside a home in the 1600 block of Downing Street.
On Thursday, Oklahoma County Special Judge Lisa K. Hammond dismissed the case, saying “the state failed to establish” that a crime was committed.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater filed the charge against Avery.
“We will be appealing this order,” Prater told the judge.
Avery was inside the residence at the request of Poor’s wife, who was picking up some personal belongings, when Poor ran from the garage into the living room clutching a bat, police said.
“While verbally engaged with Mr. Poor, Avery discharged his firearm, striking Mr. Poor three times, causing his death,” a deputy sheriff wrote in a probable cause affidavit. “This level of force utilized by Chance Avery exceeded the level of force appropriate for the victim’s actions during this encounter.”
Defense attorney Gary James argued that Avery had a right to use deadly force because Poor ignored multiple commands to drop the bat and continued to approach the officer.
“Chance Avery did his job,” James told reporters after the hearing. “Very unfortunate someone lost their life, but not by Corporal Avery’s actions. Those were the actions of Mr. Poor. It’s a sad day anytime someone dies. I think it’s a good day for law enforcement.”
James cited a recent deadly force case he defended.
In August, Kay County District Judge Lee Turner dismissed a first-degree manslaughter case against John Mitchell, a Blackwell police lieutenant who fatally shot a pickup driver who had fired at another driver, her own mother and a police officer after suffering a mental break.
Lt. John Mitchell, 41, faced trial over the fatal shooting of Micheal Ann Godsey.
Mitchell joined in a pursuit of Godsey early May 20, 2019, after shots were fired across the city. He fired an AR-15 rifle during the pursuit and after Godsey stopped. He then fired further with a handgun.
“Hey, I put 60 rounds in that dude, man. Hopefully, she’s down,” Mitchell told other officers, according to dashcam videos entered into evidence at the preliminary hearing.
Prosecutors argued the lieutenant never gave Godsey a chance when she turned a corner and appeared to be surrendering. They argued three other officers didn’t engage in gunfire at that time, only Mitchell.
Kay County District Judge Lee Turner called Godsey, 34, a violent fleeing felon who was a threat to officers as long as she was in possession of a handgun and not in custody. He specifically addressed the possibility she was surrendering, writing that it is highly unlikely she suddenly became lucid given the extent of her delusional break.
Mitchell could still face trial if the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rules against him. Any decision, there, would likely not come until next year.
James praised the Oklahoma County judge’s ruling on Thursday and characterized it as providing legal protection for police officers involved in deadly force cases.
“I think Judge Hammond’s order is like Judge Turner’s up in Kay County a couple weeks ago,” James said. “It’s precedential. It may change the complexion of law, as police officers.”
Prater told reporters Hammond misinterpreted Oklahoma’s excessive force laws.
“We’re going to continue to hold police officers accountable when they cross the line, and when they violate the law and kill people that they shouldn’t be killing,” he said. “There are very limited situations where officers can use deadly force, and that needs to be the exception rather than the rule.”
This isn’t the first excessive force case in which Avery has been involved.
In April 2014, Avery, then a Custer County sheriff’s deputy, and another deputy were cleared by the district attorney in the fatal shooting of an 18year-old man.
The family of Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket claimed he was suffering from a mental episode and they feared he was going to harm himself so they called 911.
Goodblanket had gunshot wounds on his head, chest, abdomen and right arm, according to a report by the office of the chief medical examiner. His blood alcohol level was 0.10, according to an autopsy.
The Custer County Sheriff’s Office presented Avery and Dillon Mach with a Medal of Valor “in recognition of their performance above and beyond the call of duty while disregarding their own personal safety and exhibiting exceptional courage in a life threatening situation,” according to a social media post by the sheriff’s office.
Avery and Mach “were attacked by an intoxicated individual who had been diagnosed with ‘Oppositional Defiance Disorder’ and was armed with a knife, according to the sheriff’s office post.
After Thursday’s hearing, Avery was greeted with support from loved ones, The Village police officers and other law enforcement personnel.
He did not speak to the media.