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Suspect linked to 20 stolen trailers

A Stratford man remains jailed on several complaints after a stolen trailer from Shawnee led police to link the suspect to at least 20 other stolen trailer cases.  Shawnee Police Detective Ronnie Wilson said a trailer was stolen from the Shawnee area Nov. 9, with the owner passing video on police and giving officers a description of the suspect vehicle.  Detective Greg Gibson noticed the vehicle and followed it, Wilson said, before Cpl. Dan Shumaker conducted a traffic stop.  Wilson said Steven Barnett, 30, had an outstanding warrant for charges filed Oct. 29 in another trailer theft case and was arrested. Detective Wilson and Detective Charles Swantek searched the vehicle and discovered a pawn ticket, Wilson said.
After checking pawn shops, Wilson said police discovered Barnett had allegedly pawned eight different trailers over the past 30 days.  Police tracked the stolen trailer from Shawnee and traced it to being stolen and then sold and bought again at least three times.  Wilson said a unknowing citizen has likely purchased the stolen trailer, so thus far, it hasn’t been recovered.  Barnett allegedly confessed to six of the stolen trailers, Wilson said, but police believed Barnett may have been involved in as many as 20 trailer thefts.

Barnett was recently charged in Pottawatomie County District Court with false declaration of ownership and pawn and grand larceny involving a trailer stolen from Tecumseh. In that case, the Pottawatomie Count sheriff’s office and Tecumseh police investigated a trailer theft that occurred Sept. 20.

Wilson said trailer thefts are a big problem and police believe there are many repeat offenders working this area.
The biggest problem is there’s no registration for utility trailers, and most don’t have any type of serial number or identification on them, making it difficult for police to track down stolen ones, he said.

Those who own trailers are cautioned to keep them locked up and take precautions, such as putting some type of identification numbers, names or similar identifiers in several places on the trailer. A welder can place such numbers on the trailer and owners also should photograph their trailer for easy identification.

Taking a “little bit of time and a little bit of money,” to mark trailers can help police in these types of investigations.  Further charges are pending for Barnett, who remains jailed on $20,000 bond for the first case.

Checkpoints net citations, arrests

The coalition of law enforcement officers who conducted numerous traffic safety checkpoints in Shawnee, Tecumseh and areas of McLoud Friday were pleased to find many people were buckled up, but they also discovered many driving without insurance and a few without valid driver licenses.
Shawnee Police Chief Russell Frantz said officers from many agencies worked together as part of the coalition’s efforts, and there was great cooperation and camaraderie.
One the larger checkpoints was held between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. on U.S. 177 and Benson Park Road, an intersection where officers have worked many accidents throughout the years.
Traffic was backed up for a time there as law enforcement officers checked 422 vehicles. Officers found 14 had expired tags and six drivers failed to have insurance on their vehicle, while three didn’t have their verification forms. Four people were driving without a valid driver license and one was driving with a suspended license.
Overall, Tecumseh Police Chief Gary Crosby said the checkpoints were a success because most people were buckled up. Whether the motorists were already buckled up or did so just before approaching the front of the checkpoint, he hopes motorists will continue to use seat belts for safety.
Crosby said there was a great camaraderie of all the departments working together. Most of the problems they found were those driving without insurance and driver licenses.
Despite a few motorists that didn’t like the road blocks, Crosby said he was “touched” to find that many drivers appreciated what the officers were doing to make the roadways safer for all drivers.
“So many were telling me ‘Thank you, Thank you,’” Crosby said.
The coalition also worked a checkpoint at Gordon Cooper Drive and Bob Crouch, where 215 vehicles were checked. One driver was not wearing a seat belt and six vehicles had expired tags.
Earlier in the day, the coalition worked checkpoints at Bryan and Independence, SH 3 and SH 9A, 45th and Union and Bethel and Hardesty Road.
At Bryan and Independence, police checked 184 vehicles, where they found 14 drivers had no insurance. There was only one seat belt violation there. At SH 3 and SH 9A, officers checked 336 cars, where they found 23 drivers without insurance, two who had expired tags and two arrests were made for people driving under suspension.
At 45th and Union, police found 15 without insurance, two with expired tags and one who was driving under suspension. They also made two arrests for marijuana.
McLoud Police Lt. Tim Boyd agreed the multi-agency approach went well. And while they found many who didn’t have insurance, Boyd said most drivers seemed to be cooperative with driver licenses and insurance forms in hand, ready for officers to check them.
And while the main reason officers conducted the event was for safety, police also noticed some with tag or driver license renewals coming soon, so Boyd said they issued friendly reminders.
The checkpoint on McLoud Road at Interstate 40 about 11 p.m. Friday night netted six arrests.
Of those, one was for a firearm charge, one driver had an Oklahoma County arrest warrant and three were for drug charges.
The coalition was formed in hopes of curtailing traffic crashes. Officers were hoping the high-visibility enforcement reminded drivers to slow down, buckle up and to pay attention when behind the wheel.
Frantz said the coalition hopes to conduct future efforts when possible. The Shawnee Police Department, on behalf of the coalition, also is applying for grants that would help pay officers overtime to conduct similar events.
Because Pottawatomie County had the fourth highest fatality rate during the 2009 calendar year, the local coalition of agencies wants to do everything possible to lower that number, and the checkpoints are part of that plan.
“The basis is to raise safety awareness,” Frantz said.

Contraband found in courthouse toilet

A Pottawatomie County sheriff’s deputy who spotted a piece of fishing line attached to a toilet seat in the men’s restroom at the courthouse resulted in the discovery of something fishy — a bag of contraband. Undersheriff Dave Balleweg said the initial finding by Deputy Jimmy Brewer occurred Wednesday, which is typically a busy day in court. Deputies watched that restroom, but no one attempted to go in and retrieve whatever was attached to the line. Because the item was stuck and couldn’t be removed easily, an out-of-order sign was placed on the stall until Thursday, when maintenance crews and Balleweg could disconnect the toilet to see what was inside. Just as they suspected, they found a plastic bag containing two hunks of tobacco and a small amount of marijuana, along with rolling papers, he said. But Balleweg said there also was a note for the intended prisoner. “I love you. Keep your head held high,”  the note said, and was signed, “Your wife.” The source of the contraband was unknown, but deputies were glad it didn’t end up being “fished out” by the intended party.

2009 Shop with a Cop!

It doesn’t take 9-year-old Preston Gunter long to shop. Just a few minutes after he headed into the wilds of Wal-Mart during Sunday’s Shop with a Cop, he was standing in the checkout line with Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Troy Thompson, his shopping buddy. In his cart: an Indiana Jones video game, a Bakugan game and a large bag of Butterfingers. There was one problem. He hadn’t spent enough — there was money remaining on his gift card. So, off he went again with Trooper Thompson, quickly returning with a case for the Bakugan game. “He knew what he wanted and he knew right where to go,” Thompson said. “There were only three of the games, so he was glad he got to be one of the first to go.”
For his part, Preston didn’t say much, but his frequent smiles spoke volumes. He was one of 97 children taking part in Leadership Shawnee’s Shop with a Cop. The Shawnee Chamber of Commerce annually sponsors Leadership Shawnee and requires each class to have a project. This year’s class decided to organize Shop with a Cop and raised $7,500 to buy $75 gift cards for 92 children and presents for five of their siblings who were younger than 18 months. The 92 older children were paired up with a local enforcement officer as a shopping partner. For about two hours, the area just south of Wal-Mart’s book section was packed with children, their parents, cops and Leadership Shawnee class members. Everyone involved genuinely seemed to enjoy the experience. “All the policemen are smiling and all the kids are smiling,” said Felicia Freeman, one of the Leadership Shawnee class members. “It feels good just knowing that we helped make the kids have a good Christmas.” A total of 39 officers from the Shawnee, McLoud and Tecumseh police departments, the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and the Absentee Shawnee Nation volunteered to help the youngsters shop. Dan Shumaker of the Shawnee Police Department said he was glad he had the opportunity to participate. His first shopping partner was a girl who bought clothes. “Her father thanked me over and over and over,” Shumaker said. “With the economy being the way it is, this is perfect timing. You could see in her face that it made a difference.” Wal-Mart supplied cookies and Hawaiian Punch for the shoppers, their parents and the cops. Brenda Burkey, a department manager, came in on her day off to run a register at a line dedicated for Shop with a Cop sales only. “I’m a sucker for the kids,” she said. “You could see their eyes light up. It was just magic.”
For some shoppers, particularly the older ones, it went fast indeed. Some of the younger ones took a more leisurely pace, savoring the moment and the company of the cop. And the program had an unintended benefit for one person not involved in Shop with a Cop. A lady went to the check-in table to sternly ask how long the policemen would be tied up at the store. When told about another hour and a half, she brightened.
“That’s great — I’m going to speed on my way home.” Despite the potential for abetting in the violation of speed laws, members have discussed continuing Shop with a Cop next year and making it annual event.

Police officer awards

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, several area police officers were honored for the excellence in report writing and investigation into domestic violence cases. Officers honored during the Domestic Violence Awareness Campaign hosted by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Family Violence Prevention Program and the Pottawatomie District Attorney’s Office were: Detective Lee Minick, Sgt. Jody Opela, Officer Daniel LeClaire and Investigator LaTrenda Sanders, all from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal police; Sgt. Tim Boyd from McLoud Police Department; Deputy Scott Hawkins and Deputy Amanda Myrko from the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office; Patrol Officer Kevin Hughey, Cpl. Kim Dibble and Cpl. Shawn Parsons from Shawnee Police Department; Officer Brandi Carnell from Tecumseh Police Department; as well as two officers from Lincoln County.

Charges filed in high-speed pursuit

A Shawnee man, who allegedly led authorities on a high-speed pursuit through Pottawatomie and Oklahoma counties Oct. 26, has been formally charged with two felonies and eight misdemeanor counts.  Christopher Jay Harrell, 22, is charged in Pottawatomie County District Court.
He is charged with the felony count of eluding a peace officer in a manner that endangers another. He is accused of driving a 2001 Honda motorcycle on Kickapoo Street between West 36th and West 45th Streets when he eluded Deputy Joe McGirt, who tried to conduct a traffic stop.
“The defendant endangered numerous other persons who were using the same roadway … by passing on the right side of the roadway at a high rate of speed, then moving into oncoming lanes of traffic after failing to stop at a red traffic light at the intersection of 45th and Kickapoo Street,” the charge alleges.

In a second felony count, Harrell is accused of running a roadblock at Pecan Grove Road and SH 102 as the pursuit continued.
He also is charged with one misdemeanor count of failure to stop at a stop light at Kickapoo and Kickapoo Spur, and then seven counts of failure to stop at stop signs, located at: Benedict and Leo, Kennedy and Kickapoo Spur, Broadway and Independence, Broadway and Federal, Broadway and MacArthur, Broadway and 36th Street and Kickapoo and West 36th Street, charges allege.
The pursuit continued for more than 30 minutes and ended in Oklahoma County where Harrell allegedly surrendered to state troopers without incident.

Harrell was jailed following the incident but has since posted bond. According to Pottawatomie County Court records, Harrell has been cited for numerous traffic violations in recent years, including reckless driving and speeding.  If convicted of the two felony counts in this case, he could face a fine of $1,000 to $5,000 in each count, and/or imprisonment for not less than one year or more than five years.  Each misdemeanor counts has varying punishments upon conviction, such as fines and imprisonment up to 10 days for each violation.

Charges filed in large meth bust

Two suspects arrested after Pottawatomie County sheriff’s deputies seized about 577 grams of methamphetamine from their vehicle have been formally charged.

Robert Lester Keitz, 26, Checotah, and Danette Lola McNeal, 44, Stigler, are charged in Pottawatomie County District Court with the felony of aggravated trafficking in illegal drugs. They are accused of acting conjointly and knowingly possessing more than one pound of methamphetamine on Aug. 19. They also are charged with the misdemeanor of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, accused of having electronic scales, baggies and a glass smoking device.
Both were arrested after they apparently got their pickup stuck along Old Highway 270 near Dale.
Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Capt. Travis Palmer said in addition to the 577 grams of finished powder, deputies also confiscated about 1.5 pounds of cut product, which would have been about 3.5 pounds of street methamphetamine when finished.
Deputies Mark Burden and Eric Fletcher worked the scene and arrived after a passerby had stopped to help the motorists pull their pickup back onto the road.
Deputies questioned the two traveling in the pickup and let the passerby leave. The male at the scene had no identification and gave deputies several different spellings of his reported name. Once deputies determined his actual name, they discovered he had an outstanding drug arrest warrant in McIntosh County, then the drugs and paraphernalia were found.
Both were booked into the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center on $50,000 bond.
Thursday, Keitz remained jailed, but McNeal had been released after posting a $50,000 bond.
If convicted of the felony charge, aggravated trafficking is punishable by imprisonment of four years to life and a fine of $50,000 to $500,000. Keitz, who has a former felony conviction, could face eight years to life in prison, if convicted.
The next court date for the defendants hasn’t yet been scheduled.