OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma deputy says she is lucky to be alive after a gunman shot two of her coworkers and then set his sights on her. She says if it wasn’t for a kind stranger, she probably would not have survived.
In August, deputies with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office responded to a home near S.W. 78th and Youngs Blvd. to serve eviction papers.
While at the scene, officials say Benjamin Plank began shooting at the deputies.
Sgt. Bobby Swartz, a 25-year veteran of the force, was shot and killed. Another deputy, Investigator Mark Johns, was also wounded.
KFOR spoke with Deputy Melody Norton, who said she tried to take cover but was under constant gunfire as she tried to hide from Plank and get help for her fellow deputies.
Interview Account with Deputy Melody Norton, a deputy with the Civil Division, Judicial Services:
QUESTION: Take me back to that day…. What happened?
ANSWER: As I start hearing the gunshots and I’m racing to the back to get to my partners and the gunshots start coming more and more. And I realize that I can’t get to where they are safely. So I jump across on the back side of the suspect’s truck to get cover.
The gunshots keep coming. I realize that I’ve got to get even farther, more distance. I’ve got to get more distance between me and where I hear it … so I can try to gauge what’s going on in the whole situation.
I get out to the street and there’s a lawn truck, a white Chevy truck with a lawn trailer on the back. I get behind it for cover, and I just kept thinking I needed that engine block between me and the threat.
I hear a voice behind me and it’s a man named Juan, and he’s working at the house across the street, and I’m yelling help for him, for me and my partners. And as I’m crouched behind that Chevy truck at the back, it takes around to the front. And I remember looking at him and he said, ‘I’m going to get you out of this’.
So we waited, kind of for a break in gunfire. I just depended on him. He was… between praying to God and Juan being there, that’s all I had at that moment.
I’m in the middle of the street and the gunfire just keeps coming.
And at a split second, I hear Juan say, ‘now run’. I run across the street, get cover behind a brick wall.
He and I are both watching. He’s actually trying to put himself in front of me to guard me. And I kept saying, no, no, I’m the one with the vest. And he says, ‘No, I’m helping you’.
And, you know, it’s just kind of a chaotic scene at that point….the gunfire is still coming. And so we get to that place of cover and that’s when we finally saw the suspect emerge from the house.
That’s when I fired two shots…I’m such a distance away, though, I knew it probably wasn’t going to make a difference. And at that point, I said we have to get off this mark.
Juan then took me through the house and he’s taller than me, so he was kind of watching through the windows what was going on as we go through this vacant house and around through the garage.
He’s kind of keeping me up to speed on what’s going on at that point as we’re running literally through the house and he’s telling me he’s getting in his truck.
So then we get to the garage, which the garage door was open. But we’re, you know, we’ve got cover behind that wall still. And that’s when the suspect started to drive off.
And then I really felt in my heart that [the suspect] was going to come over there where we were.
I mean, it was just such, we met evil that day for sure. And it was just such a chaotic scene. And as we saw that he was pulling out and going, that’s basically when, you know, he started running and then the pursuit ensued behind that.
But we’re still at the scene, and that’s when I was able to get back on the radio again, kind of tell him a description of the vehicle and what direction of travel they were going and get back over to my partners to help them. And then Juan and another gentleman actually came over with me and to start rendering the first aid we could get on my two partners.
QUESTION: The guy that shot [Swartz and Johns], he was hunting you?
ANSWER: Absolutely. Those were the exact words he used.
Those were the exact words I used to describe what I saw…the motion that he was in when he came out that door with that weapon reminded me of a hunting motion.
And then that’s exactly what he said, that he was hunting that girl.
He knew I was out there and didn’t know where…the one day in my life that being short is probably to my favor. Being short and being able to get low was in my favor. Just a citizen that did not have to help me absolutely saved me that day.
And I’ll be forever thankful for him because again, he didn’t have to put himself in that circumstance.
He could have hid in his house. He could have, you know, easily have just waited till everything stopped. But he chose to insert himself in that. And I’m forever thankful for that.
QUESTION: If not for Juan, you wouldn’t be here?
ANSWER: No, would have had nowhere to go. Would have just been …just an open duck on the pond basically… I was and I wanted to get to my partners. But the way he was, the way he had ambushed us when we were separated, there was just no way for me to get back where they were.
And there was really nowhere for me to go except for the vehicles. And he made sure he hit every one of those in an effort to find me.
QUESTION: When you saw Juan today, when we presented him with the award, what was going through your mind?
ANSWER: Gosh, I’m just so thankful, just so many people in 2023 grab their phones to video things. They don’t go help people and I thank God that his reaction wasn’t to grab a phone and video something.
It was to actually come out into the street and guide me to safety. An angel. An angel sent from heaven for sure. And for that specific time. And that’s what Juan said as well. He is just a regular person and just felt like God put him in the right place at the right time to help me. And I’m just forever grateful for that.