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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Tulsa, Oklahoma 06/10/1996

A vicious firefight erupted when officers and their K-9s confronted a robbery suspect in a dark alley.

June 15, 2011  |  by - Also by this author

<p><em><strong>You can still see a bullet hole on the bottom right of this metal plate the suspect was positioned in front of. Photo: Steve Downie.</strong></em></p>

Editor's Note: View photos from the alley to orient yourself as to the locations of the suspect and officers, and the viewpoints they had during the gunfight.

The incident started like a bad joke: "A black guy, a white guy, and an American Indian guy enter a restaurant..."

But what happened when this diverse group walked into a Whataburger fast-food joint in Tulsa, Okla., shortly after 9 p.m. June 10, 1996, was not funny. They made quick work robbing the store, its employees, and patrons.

A short time later, Tulsa K-9 Officer Steve Downie was summoned to a dark alley about a mile from the crime scene to search for a possible suspect. Downie parked at the intersection of 3rd and Greenwood and exited his car, hoping to deploy his K-9.

The sight of a police officer standing in the alley frustrated Downie; he didn't want any friendlies to get bitten. Drawing nearer, Downie recognized the officer as Jim Leach, an officer recognized throughout the Tulsa Police Department as the kind of cop you wanted around when things went bad. His vexation dissipated, Downie listened as Leach explained that he'd seen some movement in the alley.

Down the Alley

The two officers decided to drive through the alley. Leach's car with lights on was the lead and Downie's blacked-out unit trailed. After traveling the length of the alley without seeing anything, Downie got his dog out of the unit just as friend and fellow K-9 officer, Dick Hobson, arrived with his dog, Dino.

Neither Hobson nor Downie was wild about searching the alley, but both agreed that the absence of a police helicopter pretty much obligated them to. Given the relative inexperience of Downie's K-9, Hobson suggested securing Downie's dog and using Dino to conduct the search. Downie agreed.

The two men stared down the alley. The rear wall of a brick building formed the east side of the alley, while heavy vegetation draped over an eight-foot-high chain link fence on its west side. The foliage was an ideal place for hiding, a fact that probably wasn't lost upon downtown Tulsa's large transient population. Downie just hoped none would put themselves in the position of being mistaken for a suspect.

Hobson led Dino and Downie into the alley, with Leach bringing up the rear.

Muzzle Flashes

The officers had ventured but a few feet into the alley when the place lit up. Downie heard a loud boom, felt his leg swept out from under him, and went down hard to his knees. Trying to stand back up only gave him the sensation of stepping on a high voltage wire, and he dropped back down to his knees, hastily double-tapping in the direction of the muzzle flash.

Their unseen assailant not only had the advantage of surprise, but was cloaked with a cover of darkness. Unable to get a fix on their threat, Downie stared down the middle of the alley in the hopes that his peripheral vision might pick up some movement.


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

Josh B. @ 6/17/2011 10:55 AM

Uh...any chance of Tulsa springing for night vision gear?

M. Carnahan @ 7/17/2011 5:26 PM

I was living in a house at 9 W Fairview that night. I can remember a flood of patrol cars racing up and down the streets with officers checking vacant lots and back alleys. There was a strange feeling that every officer in the city had somehow converged at once in my neighborhood. I got a very uneasy feeling and heard shortly after that police had been fired upon and were possibly dead. It was a sick feeling but at the same time there was such a level of intensity and presence that no one could question the solidarity of the TPD.

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