OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Local law enforcement leaders released new details about the tragic shooting that left one Oklahoma County deputy dead and another seriously injured, with one official saying that the shooter planned to kill law enforcement officers.
Oklahoma County Sheriff Tommie Johnson III and Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley held a news conference Tuesday afternoon, shedding light on the deadly shooting of Sgt. Bobby Swartz, as well as the shooting of another deputy, identified as Deputy Mark Johns, at a home in the 2200 block of S.W. 78th Street on Monday afternoon.
Thirty-five-year-old suspect Benjamin Plank is behind bars at the Oklahoma County Detention Center after a police pursuit that involved him allegedly firing a rifle at the Oklahoma City Police Department officers who chased him following the deadly shooting.
Plank is accused of murdering Swartz and shooting Johns. Gourley said evidence indicates Plank planned to kill any law enforcement officer who attempted to evict him from the S.W. 78th Street home.
“There was evidence inside this home that truly indicated he was ready for what he did,” Gourley said. “I would obviously say he planned it because of the way it went down.”
Swartz and Johns, both veteran deputies with decades of experience between them, as well a third deputy, traveled to the home to serve an eviction notice, Johnson said.
Oklahoma City police were called to the home earlier that day, at around 9:53 a.m., on a request for help with an eviction. Officers explained to the woman who made the request that police neither serve civil papers nor get involved with evictions, according to Gourley.
“In that initial call, the mother called in and said her son was acting up, placing things in the driveway. She had been working on eviction and VPO [victim protective order] paperwork prior to this. She was advised to get the eviction paperwork together, and [officers] advised her to contact the Sheriff’s Office since the property resided in Oklahoma County,” Gourley said.
The Sheriff’s Office took over the eviction request, and Swartz, Johns and the third deputy traveled to the residence.
Swartz and Johns made contact with the suspect at the front of the home.
“Apparently, they had a suspect who was uncooperative at the beginning,” Johnson said.
Swartz walked to the backdoor of the home.
“And as he got to the backdoor that is when the shots started, hitting him multiple times,” Johnson said.
Johns rushed to Swartz.
“When Deputy Swartz got hit and went down, [Deputy Johns] tried to get on top of him and pull him out of the way. What a courageous act,” Johnson said.
Johns was shot multiple times as he tried to save his friend.
“Like I said, to give your own life for your friends…so courageous,” Johnson said. [He] jumped down to get and pull him out of the way, and in that time, he got hit himself. Truly a hero.”
The third deputy was not injured.
Residents in the neighborhood began calling 9-1-1 at around 1:18 p.m., reporting that they heard gunshots.
An OKCPD officer was with an Oklahoma County deputy at another location when the shooting occurred, and heard information about the shooting from the deputy’s radio. The officer contacted OKCPD personnel and said that the shooting involved Sheriff’s Office deputies.
An officer arrived at the residence at 1:22 p.m., entered the backyard and found the two wounded deputies, Gourley said.
The officer provided first aid and called for medical assistance.
Officers searched the home and the area for the suspect, but he already fled.
Authorities learned that Plank drove away in a pickup that had a boat hitched to its rear.
A Police Department helicopter entered the sky as law enforcement at the scene worked to keep the deputies alive.
A supervisor at the scene asked that the helicopter land in the neighborhood to pick up one of the deputies and fly him to a hospital as quickly as possible.
“But when our aircraft landed, they realized there was a lot more to that, and our aircraft was not equipped to make that transport,” Gourley said. “And so, we couldn’t do it, we couldn’t make it work.”
Ambulances transported the deputies to the University of Oklahoma Medical Center.
Police were on the lookout for Plank. An officer spotted the suspect’s vehicle at S.W. 89th and Walker at 1:33 p.m. The officer notified fellow officers and waited for backup, but the suspect drove off in the pickup, prompting a pursuit.
Officers chased Plank as he entered Interstate 35 North from S.E. 89th Street at 1:36 p.m.
Several more officers joined the chase, with over 20 squad cars hot on Plank’s trail.
“One of our officers tried to disable the vehicle, tried to ram it, but [the suspect] was pulling a boat, which made it very difficult, if not almost impossible, to do that,” Gourley said. “But they were trying to do everything they could to stop him because of the danger he posed to the public at that point, because he obviously already shot two law enforcement officers, so we knew, at that point, no one was going to be safe from him, and that he was going to be very desperate and would probably continue those actions.”
Plank was driving on I-35, in the area of SE 44th Street, at approximately 1:39 p.m., when he grabbed a rifle, aimed it out of his window and fired multiple rounds at the pursuing officers. He fired again less than a minute later, just north of Grand Boulevard, Gourley said.
An officer who was parked on the inside shoulder at the 2500 block of I-35 South fired at Plank’s vehicle as it headed north.
Another officer got close to the suspect’s vehicle and also opened fire, somewhere around S.E. 15th Street, Gourley said.
The gunfire did not stop Plank, who continued his flight east on Interstate 40 at high speeds, according to Gourley.
Plank then exited the intestate at Air Depot, drove to Tinker Air Force Base, put his pickup into park, held his rifle out of the window and appeared to surrender.
However, he did not cooperate as law enforcement members from multiple departments surrounded him. Officers tackled him to the ground, Gourley said.
Officers used a Taser on Plank to subdue Plank and take him into custody.
Plank was injured during the arrest. He was transported to a hospital for treatment.
Johnson held a news conference shortly after the arrest. He broke down in tears as he spoke about the grave injuries his deputies suffered. Shortly later, officials announced that Swartz, a father and a grandfather, died from his wounds.
A procession of law enforcement personnel escorted Swartz’s body from OU Health to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
The Sheriff, on Tuesday, reflected on the massive law enforcement response during the pursuit to apprehend Plank.
“When you look at the video of the pursuit, you see guys coming from all over to help our guys out. That means the world to me. That meant the absolute world to me, and I could not be more grateful for that,” Johnson said.
Plank was booked into the Detention Center on suspicion of first-degree murder, shooting with intent to kill, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and use of a vehicle in discharge of a weapon.
OKCPD investigators are investigating the shooting, in an ongoing effort decipher Plank’s motives and state of mind when he allegedly killed Swartz and wounded Johns.
Police were called five times to the S.W. 78th Street residence within the last year, Gourley said.
“All of those were disturbance-type calls that were dispositioned as civil matters, and ultimately led to probably what occurred yesterday with the eviction,” the Police Chief said.
A bag full of firearms was found inside the boat hitched to the pickup. Gourley did not have specifications on Plank’s rifle.
The officers who returned fire at Plank during the highway chase – Sgt. Matt Patten and Officer Dakota Boxwell – were placed on paid administrative leave, which is routine after an officer uses a firearm in the line of duty.
Gourley said while it is not yet known how Plank obtained his guns, it is clear what he planned to do with them.
“There was plenty of information yesterday inside that home, and I won’t go into a lot of detail on it, but I can tell you with 100 percent confidence he was planning on killing any law enforcement that came to his house, 100 percent. It wouldn’t have mattered what uniform you wore that day, if you were law enforcement that was his plan,” Gourley said.
Gourley said the situation could have ended far worse than it did, and that he is thankful no other officers were harmed.
“But I just want to be clear, what he did yesterday was very well planned out, and very cowardly – those officers didn’t have a chance,” Gourley said. “That was his intention, was to kill those [deputies].”
Law enforcement members across Central Oklahoma and throughout the state were shattered by the death of Swartz, a true public servant who was revered for his character and dedication to helping others.
Gourley said he and everyone at the OKCPD are praying for Johns to have a speedy recovery, and for Swartz’s family and the Sheriff’s Office as a whole.
Swartz’ funeral is planned for Friday.
Johnson frequently spoke during the new conference about the courage of local law enforcement members, including Johns, whom he visited in the hospital shortly after the shooting.
“I got really emotional yesterday, and I apologize for that. I really tried to keep it together, especially for my community, and I know they look at the leader to be strong, but when you walk into a hospital…and you see one deputy being worked on, and clearly he’s in bad shape…and you go into your other deputy’s room to check on him and see how he’s doing, and he says, ‘Sheriff you’re here,’ it was beyond the weirdest moment I’ve ever had in my life,” Johnson said. “[Deputy Johns] grabs my hand and he tells me, ‘Sir, I couldn’t save him. I’m sorry.’ He is taking ownership of this. And so when you see that, when you see the men and women you serve [with] – that I so thankfully serve [with], I’m grateful – when you see them break down like that, and it hurts like that – and I love all my folks, I do – it’s a very difficult thing that I don’t think you can put in words.”