Lawton police shooting justified; man answered door with a gun — (The Oklahoman)

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The Oklahoman

by Jennifer Palmer Modified

Published: September 14, 2014

Daniel Martin Jr., a 47 year old decorated Army veteran, called police to report vandals outside his home, but officers shot him after arriving. The Comanche County district attorney says the shooting was justified.

LAWTON — It was Daniel Martin Jr. who called 911 the day he died, to report vandals in his driveway. The decorated Army veteran’s voice is frenzied and at one point, the dispatcher tells him to calm down.

Daniel Martin Jr., of Lawton, was killed March 16 by the Lawton Police Department.

“They’re still at my front door,” he said.

The dispatcher asks if the vandals have a firearm, and Martin says he can’t tell. “But I have one,” he adds. “I’m inside with my weapon.”

A female dispatcher relayed that to responding officers. But when Martin opened his front door for the police, someone shouted “gun,” and Lawton police officers Elijah Garcia and Anthony Edwards fired multiple rounds, killing Martin, 47.

Comanche County District Attorney Fred Smith told The Oklahoman the officers’ actions in the March 16 shooting don’t warrant criminal charges, and they were cleared to return to duty.

An autopsy revealed Martin had methamphetamine in his bloodstream, which may explain his demeanor that afternoon. Just before officers’ arrival, he had fired a .40-caliber pistol into a closet at the home he shared with his wife, Tina. He was convinced someone was inside it.

The autopsy also detected two antidepressants. Tina Martin told investigators her husband suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and “had been struggling with it for some time.” She declined The Oklahoman’s request for an interview.

Honorably discharged

A Chicago native, Martin enlisted in the Army in 1988. He trained at Fort Dix in New Jersey and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. After 2 1/2 years stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Martin was deployed to Germany. In February 1995, he first came to Fort Sill, spending nearly three years at the southern Oklahoma Army post before being sent to Korea.

He spent 12 years overseas, Army records show, then returned to Fort Sill, where he finished out his Army career in 2004, achieving the rank of staff sergeant. He received numerous medals.

After the Army, Martin decided to call Lawton home. He taught high school and volunteered to coach youth sports. He went to New Hope Church of God In Christ.

He doesn’t appear to have a criminal record.

On March 16, he first called 911 just after midnight to report a theft. He said a woman who had been at his home stole $250 from him, and he was supposed to meet her to get his money back but she never showed up.

Later, he saw vandals outside his house, and told his wife Tina they were breaking into their cars. He began to worry they would break into the house, so he retrieved his gun, court documents show.

Tina convinced him to call 911, and he did at 1:17 a.m.

“I just filed a complaint against someone, and now some guys are in my driveway,” he tells the dispatcher.

Scanner traffic details a dispatcher’s report to the officers. Damage to property. 4111 Park Ridge Blvd. Reporting party has a firearm.

Officers Garcia, 24, and Edwards, 30, were the first to arrive. Looking for the vandals, they heard a disturbance coming from inside the home.

Tina later told investigators her husband fired a shot into a closet, and told her to get in the bathroom. She stood on the toilet while her husband lay on his stomach on the floor.

Hearing the shot, officer Edwards took cover at the corner of the garage. Sgt. Billy Peterson took a stance in the center of the yard.

Inside, the Martins heard a knock at the door and Daniel Martin started yelling that “they” were in the house. His wife said it’s the police, and told him to let them in.

He went to the door, gun in hand. Tina heard gunfire.

Officers had told him to show his hands, and someone said “gun.” Martin was struck by bullets at least nine times, according to an autopsy report.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reviewed the shooting and reported their findings to Smith, the Comanche County district attorney. He declined to comment on the investigation, but provided The Oklahoman a copy of the letter sent to Lawton Police Chief James Smith, clearing the officers of criminal prosecution.

Martin’s body was returned to Chicago, where he was buried with full military honors.