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Widow sues Oklahoma sheriff who discussed killing of reporters

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The widow of an Oklahoma man who died following a 2022 arrest filed a lawsuit Thursday against the rural sheriff, who a newspaper says it caught talking about the murder of reporters who were covering her husband’s death. were reporting.

Last March, outside the rural area of ​​McCurten County, the death of Bobby Barrick attracted little attention. The 45-year-old died in hospital after the deputy shocked him with a stun gun.

But the wrongful death lawsuit Barbara Barrick filed in federal court on Thursday has brought national attention to the county, more than 230 miles (370 kilometers) southeast of Oklahoma City near the Texas and Arkansas state lines, because of the murder with local officials. A recording was published discussing it. Lynching of journalists and black people.

“It’s been a tough year, not knowing what happened to my husband,” Barbara Barrick said during a news conference in front of the sheriff’s office on Thursday. She praised the “persistent and brave” efforts of local newspaper reporters to learn more about her husband’s arrest and death.

The McCurtain Gazette-News published parts of the recording and audio in its weekend edition, which revealed County Commissioner Mark Jennings, Sheriff Kevin Clardy and deputies, who accompanied the paper on assaulting reporters and lynching black people. Let’s discuss

Officials have not publicly addressed the contents of the recordings, leading to calls for their resignations, including Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The March 6 comments were captured after the paper’s publisher, Bruce Willingham, said he left a recorder inside the room after a county commissioners meeting because he suspected it was in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act. County business continued after the group meeting ended. They included talk of “two or three hit men”.

Willingham said he believed officers were troubled by “stories we ran that put the sheriff’s office in an unfavorable light,” including coverage of Bobby Barrick’s death. The newspaper sued the sheriff’s office, seeking body camera footage and other records related to the fatal arrest.

A lawsuit by Barbara Barrick alleged that Clardy, three deputies and a state game warden violated her husband’s constitutional rights and used excessive force during his arrest. The suit says that deputies found her husband “hog tied” on the ground outside a convenience store, where he had been beaten by a mob.

According to the suit, deputies handcuffed, beat and shoved Bobby Barrick and disabled his body cameras

The Gazette-News, a small newspaper with a limited online presence, sued the sheriff’s office last month seeking body camera footage and other arrest records. On Thursday the newspaper released the full recording of the meeting where the officials threatened their reporters.

Jennings resigned on Wednesday, according to Gov. Stitt’s office. The day before, the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association voted unanimously to suspend Clardy and his two deputies.

In a post on the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page on Tuesday, officers did not address the recorded conversation but claimed the recording was obtained illegally. Willingham said he spoke to his lawyers twice to make sure he was not doing anything illegal in making the recording. None of the officials on the recording have responded to telephone calls or emails from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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Bleiberg reported from Dallas.