OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - Keith Sweeney, Oklahoma City Police Sergeant charged with second-degree murder after shooting and killing an unarmed suicidal man in 2017, has been found guilty by a jury of his peers.
Sergeant Keith Sweeney was charged with second-degree murder in Dec. 2017 for the fatal shooting of Dustin Pigeon.
Sweeney and two other officers responded to Pigeon’s house at 1416 SW 20th Street on Nov. 15, 2017, after Pigeon called 911 saying he was going to kill himself.
One of the officers, Erik Howell, testified in court in Aug. 2018 recalling Pigeon had a bottle of lighter fluid and lighter in his hands. Howell said he appeared distressed and made a motion to dump the lighter fluid on himself, trying to set himself on fire. Howell said he did not feel in danger, adding the other officer, Troy Nitzky, had a bean-bag shotgun as a less-lethal option and used it on Pigeon.
Howell testified neither he or Nitzky drew their pistols because there was “no indication” Pigeon was going to harm him.
Bodycam video played in court showed Sweeney approaching Pigeon with his gun drawn yelling, “Drop it!” and later shouting “I will f-ing shoot you! Get on the ground!” before shots were fired.
Sweeney shot Pigeon five times with his weapon and said he thought Pigeon was holding a knife.
Defense attorney Gary James says Sweeney reacted the way he was supposed to react and that police officers don't have time to evaluate things with 20/20 hindsight when things move so quickly.
He argues Sweeney wouldn't have fired if he knew what Pigeon was holding wasn't a knife and acted reasonably based on his perception.
Weeks after the incident, the district attorney’s office determined Sweeney’s use of deadly force was not justifiable.
Sweeney pleaded not guilty to the count of second-degree murder in Aug. 2018.
The jury has recommended a 10-year sentence.
“No one is happy here. Dustin Pigeon doesn’t come back and Sweeney is off to prison. But the right thing happened," District Attorney David Prater said following the verdict.
The defense team for Keith Sweeny was in tears moments after the Sergeant was taken away in handcuffs.
"Tough loss. Tough tough loss," said James.
John George, president of the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police (OKC FOP), released the following statement in response:
“Cases like these are extremely difficult for juries, police officers and, of course, Dustin Pigeon’s family. We grieve for and with everyone affected by this case, including Sgt. Sweeney’s family and friends. Police officers routinely face split-second, life-altering decisions with incomplete information. We know Sgt. Sweeney did not go to work that night expecting to be placed in this position. Our officers daily do their absolute best to protect the community and their fellow officers. More and more, police officers are called to respond to people suffering mental health crises. Our community must increase funding to train officers and provide mental health services for people in need.”