Guthrie police release body cam video of deadly officer-involved shooting, officer cleared

GUTHRIE, Okla. - Guthrie Police released a short portion of an officer's body camera footage Monday that showed the officer confront, shoot and kill a knife-wielding man as he stood over his ex-girlfried last March.

The roughly ten second clip shows Officer Caleb Pinley exit his patrol car, order Jason Birt three times to drop the knife and then he fires four shots, striking Birt, who then falls to the ground.

"He was uniformed, he was in a marked patrol car," said Guthrie Police Chief Don Sweger at a press conference announcing the findings Monday.

"Mr. Birt looked at the officer when the officer was giving orders to drop the knife, drop the knife, drop the knife, drop the knife. Mr. Birt did not drop the knife and leaned in to the victim, in an aggressive manner, with a large knife in his hand. At that time, the officer felt, in order to save her life from the impending and imminent peril presented to her by Mr. Birt, he had no other option than to shoot."

Police say Birt, 27, had purchased the large, hunting-style knife from Wal-Mart about a half an hour prior to the incident at a home in the 500 block of N. Walnut on March 31.

Pinley, a three year veteran of the department, was headed to an unrelated call at about 6:30 p.m. when he came across Birt, armed with the knife, standing over a woman screaming for help. The woman was later identified as Birt's ex-girlfriend and mother of their child.

“If the officer had not been in that neighborhood at that time, we feel that either the victim or her current boyfriend probably would have been killed.”

Sweger said after Pinley shot Birt, he and another officer performed CPR until paramedics arrived. However, Birt was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pinley was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, pending the investigation. He has since returned to duty after being cleared in the shooting.

Birt arrested for assault last fall

Birt was arrested and charged with several felony counts relating to a domestic assault incident with his longtime girlfriend last fall. The day after his arrest, she filed a protective order against Birt, but had it dismissed about two weeks later.

"We weren’t together, but we were working on things," said Rachel Long, 22, of her and Birt's relationship, the 2-year-old daughter they had together and why she dropped the order. Long said the two were still living together at the time.

However, Long said she eventually moved on. On March 31, Long said she was on her way home from a baby gender reveal photo shoot with her new boyfriend when the pair were followed home by Birt.

"I want to believe, deep down in my heart, that Jason wouldn’t have hurt me. He wasn’t going to hurt me. He was here to hurt someone else," said Long, referring to her new boyfriend.  "I happened to get in the way and try and stop (Birt) because I thought that I had that power to. Me and him are very close, we had a life together. Six years. Have a beautiful daughter and he loved her so much. He was going to pick her up the next day for Easter and didn’t get to."

Long said she understands the situation Pinley was put in and forced to confront, but wishes it had ended differently.

"By the time the police officer pulled up, I was screaming for help, because I was scared. I remember Jason being on top of me and he wasn’t being rowdy with me or wasn’t being rough. He didn’t touch me in any way while I was on the ground," she said. "I just feel like there could have been another way of going about taking Jason’s life."

Now, Long says she has to try to move on, but still has too many questions that will now go unanswered.

"I hope to find those answers one day. The only way to get those answers are from him. Why did he have to do it and why did he have to come over here? I'll never know," she said.