The Norman Transcript

October 9, 2007

Officers involved in Noble shooting fired

By Julianna Parker

Transcript Staff Writer

NOBLE — All three officers involved in the accidental shooting death of a 5-year-old boy were fired late last week for “just cause,” the city manager said Tuesday.

“Late last week I did issue termination letters to those officers involved in the shooting,” City Manager Bob Wade said.

Wade said they were terminated for “just cause,” but would not say exactly what that meant or release the city’s investigation documents.

“Obviously it’s based on a full investigation of the events and their (the officers’) comments,” he said.

The three were fired because of their actions or inactions when they responded to an animal control call that led to one officer shooting at a snake in a birdhouse. A bullet from the gun struck and killed 5-year-old Austin Haley, who was fishing at a pond with family members.

Brad Rogers, 34, and Shawn Richardson, 29, were charged with second-degree manslaughter last month.

Rogers, who had been at the Noble Police Department about a month, reportedly fired the gun. Richardson was the supervising officer at the scene.

The other officer at the scene was Michele Key. She responded to the animal control call first and then called the other two officers for backup, according to court documents submitted in the manslaughter charge.

She was not charged with anything, but was fired by the city along with the other two officers.

“Based on the investigation, on her actions and inactions on that night and her record as a police officer here,” the city decided to fire her, Wade said.

The officers were given a chance to respond to the investigation at individual hearings last week, Wade said.

The letters of termination were mailed last Friday, but Wade refused to reveal the terminations until Tuesday so the officers could be notified first, he said.

Ben Daves, the Noble police chief at the time, recommended all three be terminated, Wade said. Daves was fired Friday, as well.

An interim chief was appointed immediately. Keith Springstead, a recently retired assistant chief from the Chickasha Police Department.

“I was more than willing, since I wasn’t doing anything else, to come and try to help out,” he said.

Rogers and Richardson turned themselves in last month and were released the same day on a personal recognizance bond. Their preliminary hearing conferences will be Oct. 23.

Jack Haley, the father of Austin, said he thinks the firings were necessary because of the “gross negligence” displayed in the shooting.

“There could have been so much more done that night,” he said.

A fourth officer, Bobby Brent Sirpless, was placed on administrative leave last month after he was charged with driving under the influence.

The police department is conducting an internal investigation into that matter, as well, and will be done probably sometime this week, Wade said.

The Noble Police Department is down to only six acting officers, including the interim chief, Springstead said Tuesday.

Springstead said the department’s number one priority is hiring more officers.

The change of leadership shouldn’t slow down the process at all, he said.

He went ahead and continued with a job offer Daves had made, even pushing up the hiring date for an officer hired this week.

The officer is not certified yet, and won’t be an active officer for several months, Springstead said.

The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Department is still assisting Noble to patrol the area, he said.

“They’ve been very gracious in helping out the town during the crisis here,” Springstead said.

Julianna Parker