The Oklahoma County district attorney has found no probable cause to charge a police officer responsible for the February shooting death of a man in Bethany.
In a letter to Bethany police chief Phil Cole last week, District Attorney David Prater said it was reasonable for Officer Matthew Branscum to fear for his life and safety and to fire his weapon when responding to a domestic violence report on February 10.
Prater also criticized Branscum for making choices that escalated a dangerous situation and resulted in the death of 45-year-old James McMullen.
“I have determined that tactical decisions made by officers in this matter increased the likelihood that a shooting would occur. Notwithstanding that determination, I do not find Officer Branscum’s use of deadly force to be unreasonable at the moment he made the decision to fire,” Prater said in the letter.
On the day of the shooting, Branscum and four other officers arrived at the McMullen residence to respond to a report that McMullen had battered his mother. The officers took positions near the entrance of the home and Branscum approached the front door. When McMullen answered, he was holding a gun, according to the letter.
McMullen refused to drop the weapon when ordered, and Branscum shot McMullen several times. McMullen later died of his injuries at a hospital.
Prater found no probable cause to charge Branscum with a crime, although he questioned the decisions of Branscum and his fellow officers to stand near the front door, where they were vulnerable to gunfire.
“There was no reason to approach the front door in the manner that they did without exhausting other tactical options to bring the matter to a successful end,” Prater said in the letter.
Other options could have included backing away from McMullen or taking cover in a position farther from the entrance.
“Though I find no violation of state or federal law regarding the use of deadly force by Officer Branscum, the responding officers, most notably the supervisors on the scene, could have employed well established tactics to lessen the probability that a deadly force incident would result,” Prater said.
According to a press release from the Bethany Police Department, Branscum will return to duty in the next few days.
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