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2021-11-17 11:34:04 (UTC)

Bad bad or not bad

The status of a fired Sallisaw police officer's job was left unresolved after a court hearing Tuesday.

Lt. Billy Oliver was fired a year ago over allegations of excessive force and other allegations.

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Arbitrator Charles R. Greer ruled earlier this year that Oliver should be reinstated, so long as a judge modifies a protection order against him.

That protection order, filed in March 2021, found that Oliver "represents a credible threat to the physical safety of an intimate partner or child." Among other things, the order forbade Oliver from possessing firearms or ammunition. The arbitrator ruled that Oliver cannot be reinstated unless that order is changed or removed.

The person who filed for the protection order alleges that Oliver raped them. Oliver has not been convicted of rape.

Tuesday, a Sequoyah County judge ruled that the allegation does not involve domestic abuse or the stalking of an intimate partner or child, and so the federal firearms prohibition technically does not apply.

"Federal law and state law say that unless you have a relationship as a child or an intimate partner, you can't get somebody's firearms taken away," Ryan Gassaway, the attorney for the alleged victim, told 40/29 News.

"I see that as a loophole in the law that really needs to be changed," he said. "If somebody gets raped in the state of Oklahoma and they don't know their assailant, they can file a protective order but they can't take that person's guns away."

What Does This Mean?
Oliver's attorney asked the judge directly if the order means Oliver can again possess firearms.

The judge declined to answer.

Law enforcement declined to speak with 40/29 News until after getting clarification on the legal situation.

Gassaway said he believes Oliver will be able to get his job back.

"Based on the ruling today, I don't see why he couldn't," he told 40/29.

Chokehold Incident
On June 7, 2020, police were called out to a report of a man with a gun.

Officers did not find a man with a gun, and one officer began speaking with a different man, Charles Day.

Lt. Billy Oliver walked up to Day and began pointing his finger in the man's face, body camera video shows. Oliver appears on the video to grab Day's wrist, turn him and put him in a chokehold and take him to the ground.

Officer Josh Rogers wrote the official police narrative, which appeared to show discrepancies when compared to the body camera video that was captured by another agency.

The report stated that Day went up to Lt. Billy Oliver and screamed at him and then shoved the officer. The report said Lt. Oliver told Day to put his hands behind his back, that he refused, and that officers "had to assist Day to the ground."

"How much more obvious can it get?" Charles Day told 40/29. "You got the video with the sound and the footage. The officers were in the wrong."

Sallisaw officers are not taught to use chokeholds, the police chief told 40/29. Oliver also did not turn his body camera on, despite department requirements.

Firing and Arbitration
Oliver was placed on paid leave in June 2020 and fired in November 2020.

The city fired Oliver because of a series of poor conduct, according to Greer's report. Those included not turning on his body camera, failing to report the use of a taser, criticizing the chief in front of another citizen.

City termination documents obtained by 40/29 News showed that Oliver was also fired for excessive force, falsifying arrest reports, and an off-duty fight.

The arbitrator found that Oliver displayed poor judgment, but his actions weren't bad enough to justify firing him.

"The violations were not egregious enough to preclude the requirement for progressive discipline before resorting to termination, particularly for an officer with almost 14 years of service and no previous discipline of a substantive nature," Greer wrote.

Greer decided that the city shouldn't have to give Oliver back pay for the time he was fired as a warning that he should change his behavior.

Rape Arrest
In February 2021, Billy Oliver turned himself in on a felony rape warrant.

The Sequoyah County Sheriff's Department began investigating Oliver after a woman told law enforcement Oliver raped her repeatedly in November 2020, three days before he was fired.

Oliver argued that he was a member of a federally recognized tribe, and the county's charge was dropped, District Attorney Jack Thorp told 40/29 News.

The case was referred to U.S. Attorneys.


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