OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR)- Monday afternoon’s deadly deputy-involved shooting has left a mark of tragedy throughout the state, but law enforcement officials say they are already investigating what happened on SW 78th and Youngs.
The Oklahoma Sheriff’s Office held a joint press conference with the Oklahoma City Police Department Tuesday afternoon to go over their findings so far.
The two deputies involved in this shooting are Sgt. Bobby Swartz and Mark Johns.
OKCPD Chief Wade Gourley said they first received a call at 9:53 a.m. from the suspect, Benjamin Plank’s mother saying her son was “acting out.”
Chief Gourley said Plank’s mother asked for help regarding an eviction.
OKCPD doesn’t handle eviction notices, according to Chief Gourley. And so, the dispatcher advised her on the proper process and recommended she call the OKCSO.
Chief Gourley also said Plank’s mother mentioned a victim protective order, but police were unable to verify the VPO. Chief Gourley said he’s not sure why it wasn’t popping up, but they’re currently looking into that.
Once the OKCSO was notified, deputies showed up to Plank’s house to serve the “locked out” papers requesting he immediately vacate the premises.
At 1:18 p.m., Chief Gourley told KFOR neighbors called into OKCPD saying shots were fired.
An officer arrived on scene four minutes later and found two OKCSO deputies shot in Plank’s backyard. That officer began rendering aid.
By the time the officer got to the scene though, Plank was nowhere to be found on the property.
However, officers were given a description of the vehicle Plank took off in: a gray pickup with a boat attached to the back.
OKCPD Air One went airborne at 1:24 p.m. as a supervisor requested the helicopter pick up one of the deputies and get them to the hospital as quickly as possible.
Chief Gourley said they quickly realized their chopper wasn’t equipped to make the transport though. The two deputies were transported via ambulance.
At 1:33 p.m., an officer in the area spotted Plank’s vehicle minutes before he jumped onto northbound I-35 from SE 89th.
Dozens of other officers followed in pursuit and even attempted to ram into the back of Plank, but Chief Gourley said it was nearly impossible to do so with the boat attached to the back.
“He already shot two law enforcement officers, so we knew no one would be safe from him,” added Chief Gourley.
As the pursuit was happening, Plank allegedly shot at officers around I-35 and SE 44th and again just north of Grand Blvd.
There was an OKCPD officer who was stationary who attempted to shoot at Plank in an effort to stop the chase.
The chase continued east on I-40 and Plank eventually exited at Air Depot and drove to the front gate of Tinker Air Force Base.
As Plank pulled up to Tinker, Chief Gourley said he was holding a rifle out of his window and gave up at the gate.
Chief Gourley added Plank was uncooperative and was tackled to the ground, then tased. He was taken to a nearby hospital to treat the injuries he sustained during the arrest.
After the arrest, police searched his vehicle and boat and found a bag full of handguns, a rifle, and tons of ammo.
“I can tell you with 100% confidence, he was planning on killing any law enforcement that came to his house, it wouldn’t have mattered what uniform you wore that day, if you’re law enforcement. That was his plan. We searched the vehicle, when the pursuit was over, there was a bag found inside the boat, and in that bag there were multiple firearms and lots of ammunition, he was definitely ready for a confrontation,” explained Chief Gourley.
After Plank was discharged from the hospital, Chief Gourley said he was taken to the Oklahoma County jail.
Prior to this encounter with Plank, OKCPD reports having five prior calls to Plank’s home on SW 78th, all of which were disturbance calls dispositioned as civil matters.
Chief Gourley also mentioned Plank’s only criminal contact was in 2006 for illegal dumping of trash.
The OKCSO deputies were wearing standard ballistic vests, but the rifle bullets had enough power to penetrate them.
KFOR asked OKCSO Sheriff Tommie Johnson III if they’d look into upgrading their vests after this incident. He said the rifle-rated vests would be too heavy for everyday use and are extremely expensive.
Sheriff Johnson III went on to say their current vests cost $1,000 per unit while the military grade vests cost $3,000.
Officials are unsure of where or when Plank purchased the weapon he used in Monday’s shooting. They are also unsure of the kind of rifle Plank had on him or if that rifle is what was used to kill Sgt. Swartz.
When Sheriff Johnson III was asked how it felt going back to work the day after this happened, he said,
“It’s extremely difficult. I got really emotional yesterday. I really try to keep it together for my community. I know they look at the leader to be strong. When you walk into the hospital and you see one deputy being worked on and clearly he’s in bad shape. Their rooms are blocked. And you go into another room and see a deputy and he says sheriff you’re here. It was the weirdest moment in my life. He grabbed my hand and said sir I couldn’t save him I’m sorry. When you see the men and women you serve, that I so thankfully serve. When you see them break down like that and it hurts like that, and I love all my folks, it’s a very difficult thing that I don’t think you can put into words.”
Deputy Johns jumped on top of Sgt. Swartz’s body when Plank fired shots in an attempt to save his life. That’s when Johns was shot multiple times as well.
Sheriff Johnson III told KFOR the suspects and deputies were only feet apart from one another when shots were fired.
There was also a third OKCSO deputy on scene. Sheriff Johnson said she has taken time off from work for the time being as she is still shaken up.
OKCSO is receiving support through the OKCPD wellness unit though.
Chief Gourley said Plank has spoken with detectives and officers on scene, but did not elaborate on what that conversation entailed.
Sheriff Johnson III said Deputy Johns did undergo surgery Tuesday morning and he is stable as of now. He’s just hoping for a full recovery.
Sheriff Johnson III added there will be a funeral for Sgt. Swartz this Friday, but didn’t release a time.
In the meantime, there is a memorial set up outside of OKCSO for Sgt. Swartz.
A parked cruiser is out front with the lights turned on.
News 4 was at the memorial all morning and saw dozens of people show up with letters, flowers, and stuffed animals.
From a 2-year-old placing flowers on the top of the cruiser to a veteran saluting the memorial, everyone who came out was in tears as they paid their respects.
“I cried. I cried,” said veteran Craig after saluting the memorial and placing flowers on the cruiser. “And it was on the news when we got home. We always leave our TV on and I just fell to my knees and I just cried. What’s the world coming to?”
News 4 asked Craig why he decided to pay his respects to Sgt. Swartz even though he had never met him and he said it was the right thing to do.
Craig explained to KFOR that no matter the service one has provided to their country, it’s a brotherhood, and so in a way, he was saying goodbye to his fallen brother.
By the time News 4 left OKCSO, the front of the cruiser was covered in flowers.
OKCSO Public Information Officer, Aaron Brilbeck said they have removed the vehicle for the evening, but it will be back out front Wednesday morning.
As long as there are people who want the memorial up, Brilbeck told KFOR the cruiser will stay parked there for the community to pay tribute.
This is the first OKCSO deputy to be shot and killed since 1935, according to Brilbeck. He said they’re trying their best to memorialize him.
Swartz’s son, Austin declined to go on camera, but said his dad was “an amazing man, father, grandfather (my kids called him papa policeman), son, and brother.”
Austin went on to say Sgt. Swartz was a 25-year veteran of OKCSO and served in the U.S. Army before that.
“He meant the world to myself, my kids, my wife, and our entire family,” Austin said. “I’m not sure what the world will look like without him, but I do know it’s just not going to be the same. We lost an amazing person.”
Austin said his family is still in shock and heartbroken over the loss of his father.
Sgt. Swartz leaves behind one son and two grandchildren.
Plank is facing first degree murder charges and is currently sitting behind bars without bail.