OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A man charged with first-degree murder and running an illegal marijuana grow operation is out on bail Tuesday after a year behind bars, but he and his loved ones are saying the fight is not over.
LaRue Bratcher, a black man, is accused of murdering a white man who he believed was breaking into his business, Premium Smoke LLC. He was held at the Oklahoma County Detention Center until Tuesday, after Black Lives Matter-Oklahoma City posted his bond for $400,000.
“It was such a blessed day just to see him walk out those doors,” said wife Vicky Bratcher. “The emotions we all had – me, my kids, just all his family – it was unbelievable.”
While they were celebratory, feelings were also mixed because LaRue is on house arrest.
“He’s very happy, excited, to be around all of us, the family, kids,” Vicky explained. “He’s also very reserved. He’s still not free the way we all are.”
In May of 2020, LaRue shot and killed Daniel Hardwick. LaRue told police he saw Hardwick enter his property, on his security cameras, through a hole in the fence.
According to court documents, LaRue grabbed his gun, then, when he heard Hardwick at the back door, he “asked the subject what he was doing,” before shooting through the door three times “to scare the subject off.”
When he opened the door, he found Hardwick dead on the other side and called 911.
Bratcher admitted to police that the door was “locked and secured” when he started shooting.
The father of five and U.S. Army veteran was arrested the night of the shooting, but just for growing marijuana without a license. The first-degree murder charge came later in the timeline of events.
LaRue says the medical marijuana business was legitimate, but the license lapsed. Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority records show he did previously have a license to grow, but it expired in November of 2019. As for the murder charge, he and his family say he was just defending himself.
“This is a tragic accident that should never have happened and LaRue’s heart and my heart goes out to the gentleman’s family, but this would have never happened if the gentleman had not come to his place of business,” said LaRue’s uncle, Derrick Neighbors. “For me, justice is pretty simple – ‘Do I defend myself or let him break in?’ LaRue was in his own place of business.”
Black Lives Matter OKC is also proclaiming justice, saying that’s what they’re demanding and that’s why they used their community bail fund to free LaRue.
“He had been mistreated,” said executive director, the Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson. “I don’t think he should have ever been detained. Due process is not a thing that happened in this situation. Since this miscarriage of justice began, it shows the disparities and the differences between how black people and our white counterparts are treated in situations like this because our belief is that Mr. Bratcher was defending himself for someone who had intention to do him harm and had already committed a crime at his business.”
The Bratcher family is now simply enjoying being back together, his wife sharing that LaRue says the trial can wait for now.
“He told me he doesn’t want to think about it,” Vicky said. “We’re going to continue to move forward. He just wants to catch up on the last year that he’s missed with us.”
The Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office previously told KFOR they wouldn’t comment ahead of LaRue’s trial, which has been rescheduled for October.