The Norman Transcript

November 18, 2012

Disc golf robber hits east side park

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Ryan Milam, 21, is an avid disc golfer who plays at Lions Park Northeast several days a week. He often plays alone and, because of the friendly nature of disc golfers, has never feared strangers on the course.

That changed Saturday morning between 9 and 10 a.m. when he was robbed at gunpoint by a masked man dressed in black and wielding a crowbar in his other hand. Norman Police conducted an intensive search at the park following the robbery but did not apprehend the suspect.

“We have not taken anybody into custody,” Lt. Chad Vincent said. “The incident is currently under investigation.”

The suspect is described as a white male wearing black clothing and sunglasses, 6 ft. tall, 180 pounds with blond hair.

“I went out there by myself,” Milam said. “I go out there five days a week. I play by myself pretty often.”

There were no cars at the park when Milam arrived that morning, but he thought little of it. It was a routine he often followed.

Most times, Milam doesn’t carry much cash, but on Saturday he had been to the ATM and had withdrawn $150 in order to pay a bill. He said he didn’t think anyone followed him from the ATM which was inside and some distance from the course.

On the fourth hole, Milam noticed a guy sitting on the bench. The man in black had a single disc golf in his hand and was most noticeable by the fact that he had no bag with him, no other discs.

“He’s talking on the phone, and I ask him if I can play through,” Milam said.

Milam was following typical course courtesy, and the man told him to go ahead, that he was waiting on someone. Milam thought little of it at that point because it’s not unusual for a player to arrive and wait for friends on the course.

“A couple of holes later I see him again, and he’s sitting on the t-box again,” Milam said.

It seemed odd to see the man for the second time, but once again Milam asked to play through and the man told him to go ahead.

When Milam reached the 9th hole, the man is there again — for the third time.

“At that point, I’m thinking this is getting weird,” Milam said. “He’s skipping holes.”

But once again, he follows courtesy and asks if he can play through, and once again the man, who appears to be around age 40, tells him to go ahead.

“I go throw my disc, and after I throw it, I turn around to pick up my bag with all my other discs,” Milam said. “He’s got a gun pointed at my face, and he’s six inches away from my head.

“I saw that he had a crowbar in the other hand,” he said. “I had my cell phone in my hand and I dropped it.”

Milam is thinking quickly now, scared, but clear, because though he has just dropped his personal cell phone, he knows he has his keys and his work cell in his pocket. This is information the man in black doesn’t have.

“He said ‘get on the ground m... f.... On your stomach,’” Milam said. “He seemed as scared as I was. He was really nervous.”

The man spoke with a Southern twang, a deep country accent.

“He was probably about 40 or just over 40 but I couldn’t see his face at all because he had a western, cowboy-style black bandana on his face and very large sunglasses and gray tennis shoes,” Milam said.

The bit of skin he could see around the man’s eyes indicated he was a white man but slightly tanned and with “ a little 5 o’clock shadow.”

Milam got on the ground.

“He actually touched the gun to my head while I was on the ground,” he said.

But then the man in black told him to stand up and empty his pockets.

“I had two cell phones on me — a work phone and a personal phone,” Milam said.

He tossed his wallet with his drivers license and cash and a doctor’s note he happened to have in his pocket onto the ground.

“He just told me to run,” Milam said. “I ran straight for the woods. I could run for an open area or I could run into the trees, and I chose the trees.

“I get to the trees, and I’m running through some really thick brush,” he said.

Milam said the thick brush was scratching him up pretty badly but he just kept running. When he was certain he wasn’t being pursued, he got his work phone out and dialed 911.

He was feeling frantic and burst through the brush to see some back yards of nearby homes.

“There was a guy doing yard work,” he said.

Milam ran up, told the man he’d been robbed, and asked if he could come into the yard. He was welcomed into the man’s house.

“They were super nice, great people,” he said “They got me a glass of water. They were the nicest people I’ve ever met.”

Milam said he remained in the safety of that home for about two hours while the police conducted an intensive search for the suspect. Meanwhile, he started tracking his personal cell phone — the one stolen by the man in black — using his work cell.

“It’s moving at first, and then it stops moving,” Milam said. “I guess he ditched it. Luckily, the police did find my cell phone.”

He said the police are hoping to retrieve fingerprints from the cell. Milam was happy to have the phone back, but the loss of his identification and money stung. Worse, though, was the loss of his bag of discs.

“I was more worried about that (the discs) than anything, and they were all broken in,” Milam said. “A brand new disc is not nearly as good as a used disc. I had them just the way I wanted them.”

Milam has recorded the weights of the discs so he will try to rebuild his collection, but that will take time and money he doesn’t have right now. The discs represent a $400 investment, he said.

The money he lost in the robbery was “every last dime in cash” he had.

“We do have a suspect,” Milam said.

He said disc golfers have reported a thief who fits that description and who has stolen discs and pawned them in the past. The disc golf community is very close and Milam believes if this guy is a repeat offender, the police will catch him.

“I play out there all the time by myself, and I see a lot of sketchy looking people but I’ve never had an issue with them,” he said.

Milam said he will return to the course, but next time he won’t go alone.

“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” he said.

Milam said the disc golf course is a place where no one knows a stranger and everyone is friendly.

“Most disc golfers are just very nice people,” he said. “I want all the other disc golfers to be careful.”

During the search for the suspect, other disc golfers who had arrived by that time were asked to leave the course. Milam said the disc golf community is rallying their support behind him.

Anyone with information can call Norman Police at 321-1444 or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 366-7867.

Joy Hampton366-3539jhampton@normantranscript.com

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.