OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After charging documents and video were released of the killing of 15-year-old robbery suspect Stavian Rodriguez, both those who condemn the officers involved and those who support them said they were surprised to see charges filed.
Officers Bethany Sears, Jared Barton, Corey Adams, John Skuta and Brad Pemberton were charged with first-degree manslaughter Wednesday for their parts in the Nov. 23, 2020, killing of Rodriguez. The sixth officer who shot at the teen, Sgt. Sarah Carli, was not charged because she fired a less lethal weapon.
Rodriguez was killed after he was caught robbing a convenience store.
Surveillance video shows that once he was out, he dropped his weapon on the ground in front of him.
Court documents state, “He then puts his left hand in his rear left pocket and his right hand at his front right pocket or waistline.”
That’s when officers opened fire, hitting Rodriguez 13 times.
Adriana Laws, an advocate for Rodriguez’s family, said she felt some relief when the officers were charged.
“It doesn’t change my opinion about this being an egregious murder,” she said after watching video.
Laws said she believes the officers needed to take a pause before shooting.
“The lights shining in his face disorienting him, different commands coming from different directions and it’s all so confusing. The response time between the time that they ordered demands and gave him to respond was not even an acceptable amount of time,” she said.
But defense attorney Scott Adams had a completely different reaction after watching the video, saying it speaks for itself.
“I don’t see anything that any of these officers have done that in my opinion would be even remotely inappropriate,” he said.
He said regardless of how small or how young the teen was, he posed a danger to the officers and his actions were alarming.
“Those police officers are in hyper alert status, and when he reached around his back, it was instinctive for those police officers to start pulling the trigger,” Adams said, “and I don’t blame…that’s what they’re trained to do, and that’s what they should do because if they don’t, they’re going to get killed.”
The attorney for the officers, Kyle Sweet, sent KFOR a statement saying, “We are proud to represent these officers and, with respect to the tragic loss of life, we strongly believe their use of force was justified, and we are ready to make that argument in a court of law.”