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June 21, 2014

Case closed in Rodriguez death

DA says Moore PD acted within the law

MOORE — More than four months after the death of Luis Rodriguez in Moore, the case has been pronounced closed.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn confirmed Friday that he will not be pressing charges against members of the Moore Police Department in regards to the death of Rodriguez. He said the evidence he was presented didn’t warrant any action being taken against those involved.

“All I know is that what they did under the law was appropriate,” Mashburn told The Transcript.

Rodriguez, 44, died Feb. 15 after an altercation with Moore officers Joseph Bradley, Brian Clarkston and Ryan Minard and off-duty Oklahoma game wardens Tyler Howser and Chad Strang, who were working private security at the Warren Theatre. According to Mashburn, it was Rodriguez’s physical health that caused his death and not the actions of the police and security guards.

“I wanted to make sure I went through the facts then turn to the medical testimony to see what caused Mr. Rodriguez’s death,” Mashburn said. “And basically what I got out of it is, he had an enlarged heart, with a thick left ventricle wall that during the confrontation or struggle, it basically caused his heart to fail. None of the actions of the officers — the knee strikes, the things that took place in the scuffle — led to his death. It was the fact that he was in a struggle with officers and caused his heart to fail is what I got.”

Despite Mashburn’s conclusion, Rodriguez’s wife, Nair, has a different opinion.

“They killed my husband,” Nair said.

In April, the office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide. According to the ME’s report, no drugs or alcohol were found in Rodriguez’s system, but he was diagnosed with pulmonary edema and congestion with intra-alveolar hemorrhage.

Scalp contusions and abrasions on the right forearm, hands, abdomen and knees also were found on Rodriguez.

The Moore Police Department held a press conference Friday in which Sgt. Jeremy Lewis read a statement from Mashburn that detailed why he decided not to press charges. Lewis also handed out a copy of the Warren Theatre security video that shows the altercation. The video shows the Rodriguez family walking into camera view around the 4:40 mark as they headed toward their parked car.

Less than a minute later, the MPD, coming from the other direction, catch up to the family. Because the view was so far away, it’s difficult to make out everything that took place except for when the police attempted to subdue Rodriguez. Several knee strikes to Rodriguez from officers can be made out on the film.

Yet, Mashburn said the officers acted in accordance with the law.

“Then I turned to, was there any illegal actions on the officers’ part that led to his death,” Mashburn said. “The law is quite clear, once he resisted arrest, they are authorized by the law to take any necessary means to take him into custody, and that’s what they did. Once he was in custody, they did not strike him or use any form of punishment on him. Therefore, their was no connection to any illegal actions on the part of the officers in Mr. Rodriguez death.”

Members of the Rodriguez family waited outside the press conference. Nair said she didn’t find out that Mashburn would not be filing charges until a reporter called and told her.

“I won’t give up on seeking justice,” Nair said. “I’m not just dealing with enemies, I’m dealing with traitors. Today’s my 49th birthday without my husband. Now the DA didn’t want to press charges on those criminals with licenses. They didn’t give my husband a chance to talk.”

Nair Rodriguez spoke to the media while she was on the phone with her new lawyer. She would not go into detail on what her next move is or discuss the possibility of a civil suit against the Moore Police Department.

It was an argument between Nair Rodriguez and her daughter at the Warren Theatre that started the incident. Nair admits to slapping her daughter for being disrespectful and then storming off into the parking lot with her husband and daughter following after her.

According to Mashburn, a witness told the officers Strang and Howser and security guards about the domestic abuse and they went to check on it. While one officer reached Nair, the other four members stopped Luis and asked him to show them his identification. He would not give it to them and the officers claim he then took a then took an aggressive fighting stance.

“They absolutely did have the right to ask,” Mashburn said. “At that point in time, they were alerted there’s a woman outside hitting another woman. And when they walk outside, they are directed to the family that’s out there. So the officers aren’t sure is it the mom and the daughter, the dad and the mom, is the dad on the daughter? You don’t know who the aggressor is so they have to investigate this domestic violence situation. They are legally capable of stopping everyone, getting their identification.”

The officers attempted to detain Luis Rodriguez. According to a statement Chief Jerry Stillings made back in February, Luis resisted and the group of officers and security guards took him to the ground.

Video from Nair’s cell phone shows the five of them holding Luis down on the ground, with one of them putting a knee on the back of his neck. His motionless body was then sat up and an ambulance was called to transport him to the hospital.

Rodriguez died later in the emergency room of the Moore Medical Center.

Mashburn was asked if the Moore Police could have done anything different that would have kept the situation from going as far as it did. He said he couldn’t answer that. But he said the officers involved did everything by the book.

“Think about the other part,” Mashburn said. “If they just allowed them to walk away and someone was hurt once they got home. And the police didn’t do their due diligence, they could have stopped this in the parking lot. They have a responsibility to investigate the domestic violence. He refused to allow them to do that.”

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