LINDSAY, Okla. – A man died a fiery death after an encounter with Lindsay police near the town Tuesday night.
The officers were called to a rural part of McClain County on reports of a man acting erratic with a gun.
“It was kind of a situation that they could not win. They could only do the best that they could do,” said the Lindsay City Manager, Stephen Mills.
Mills say his officers were faced with a split second difficult choice.
“So he had two choices. He could either shoot him where we know there’s no good outcome for the individual. Or he could use his taser and maybe it ignites, maybe it doesn’t. It probably is going to ignite. Then maybe I can get it out first,” said Mills.
The officers backed the man into an area near 100th Street and Council and he tried to ram them with his vehicle.
“He was hollering something inside but they couldn’t hear him because the windows were up. They saw him moving around a gas can but they didn’t actually see any gas coming out. They just assumed he’s dumping gasoline inside there,” said Mills.
The man got out of his van with a lighter and ignored commands to drop it and get on the ground.
He turned to get back in the vehicle and one of the officers deployed his taser, igniting the man’s clothes.
“But it was just a small fire on his clothes at this point. They attempted to put him out and keep him from getting into the vehicle. The officer caught fire. His hands got burned. He stopped. Another officer helped put him out,” Mills said.
The man was able to climb back in his car and he erupted into flames once inside with all the gasoline.
Mills says his officers did what they had to do.
“They were responding to an erratic individual with a weapon. Their mind is recent events. It seems like nobody can just kill themselves anymore. They want to kill everybody else in the process,” said Mills. “I believe that our officers saved lives. It’s a terrible outcome, but I believe our officers saved lives.”
Both the OSBI and McClain County Sheriff’s Office are investigating.
They have not released the name of the man who died but say he was reported missing and possibly suicidal out of Norman Tuesday.
They say he may have been in the Lindsay area because he cleaned pools and had at least one client out there.
Mills says the officer who burned his hands is expected to be OK but tells us both officers are pretty shaken up over the whole incident.