McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Faces Wrongful Death Suit After Racist Audio Tapes Released newsusface


For more than a year, Barbara Barrick didn’t know the details of how and why her husband Bobby was killed while in custody of Oklahoma law enforcement.

“We had no answers. There was no investigation. I was contacted by no entity of the law,” Barbara told The Daily Beast in an interview on Thursday—the same day that she filed a lawsuit against the McCurtain County Sheriff, the county’s board of commissioners, and a state game warden. “I just felt like I was kind of alone out here, and nobody was talking to me or giving me any information about what happened to my husband.”

The complaint comes on the heels of state officials suspending McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy and two of his underlings over racist and violent comments caught on tape. A county commissioner allegedly involved in the disturbing discussion also resigned on Wednesday as the controversy continues to make national headlines.

According to Barbara’s lawsuit, 45-year-old Bobby Barrick died in March 2022 not long after a group of deputies used personal (rather than county-issued) tasers on him “no fewer than four times” while he was handcuffed. They then allegedly dragged him out of the back of a truck and restrained him face down on the pavement.

The federal suit, filed in the Eastern District of Oklahoma, says that the deputies kneeled on Bobby’s upper back and put him in a chokehold, rendering him unable to breathe. One officer also allegedly struck him with a baton. During the encounter, the complaint says, deputies were instructed to deactivate their body cameras.

The complaint adds that at one point, Bobby pleaded with EMS personnel who arrived on scene, yelling: “Help me! They are going to kill me!”

Bobby experienced a seizure and was transported to a local hospital, where he was placed on a ventilator. He was flown to another regional medical center for treatment after undergoing respiratory arrest and cardiac arrest and died five days later.

The sheriff’s office and the board of county commissioners didn’t return messages left by The Daily Beast.

Bobby and Barbara Barrick with her children.

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The lawsuit alleges that the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office “has a history of permitting its personnel to engage in unnecessary, unreasonable and excessive force on arrestees who pose no threat” and that its employees “have stated their resentment for members of the Native American community in a racial manner believing they receive special treatment.”

Bobby, who lived in Tulsa, was a member of the Choctaw Nation, Barbara says.

Her attorney, Mitchell Garrett, told The Daily Beast that some body-cam footage reveals that deputies made statements like, “Well, he’s Native. We got special rules for Natives, they get special treatment. They’re better than we are.”

Garrett said Barbara finally got information including police video of the moments before her husband’s fatal injuries thanks to a public records request filed by a small, independent newspaper, the McCurtain Gazette-News. The outlet’s publisher, Bruce Willingham, captured audio of the sheriff and county employees discussing the lynching of Black people after a public meeting last month. The recording also allegedly revealed that the group talked about hiring a hitman to kill his son, Gazette-News reporter Chris Willingham. (The sheriff’s office has said the recording was “illegally obtained.”)

Garrett says it was only through the tenacity of the newspaper, which has no website or digital footprint, that Barbara obtained some answers last week and thus had enough information to file her lawsuit. “This kind of local investigative journalism that has died with the corporatization of media, hard-hitting investigative reporters, are what shed the light into the darkness,” he added.

Barbara said that receiving these details on her husband’s death is “starting this grieving process all over.”

She wants people to remember her husband as someone who loved life and making others laugh. She said they loved to travel around Oklahoma and stay at different Airbnbs and try new restaurants. Bobby also treated her two children from a previous marriage like family.

“Bobby never had kids,” Barbara said. “When he met me, he took on mine as his own. That made him as thrilled as he could be. He loved them.”

Bobby worked for a prominent construction firm in Tulsa and was proud that their family home had the best landscaping on the block. “People would walk by our house and just say how great it looked and he was tickled to death, so he’d just keep going for it and try to make it even better and better,” Barbara said, adding, “There just wasn’t much that he just didn’t take on. There were so many things he loved.”

“We had just a really great life,” she continued. “And, you know, this happening and the way he had kind of been portrayed in all of this… this is what I want to get out about my husband.

“I wanted to show who he truly was as a person.”

The day Bobby encountered police, she and her attorney say, he was having a mental health emergency and also had methamphetamine in his system.

They hope that through the lawsuit, they can push for better training for law enforcement that encounter someone who is in distress.

“Methamphetamine use is a rampant problem here in Oklahoma,” Garrett said. “Everyone knows a family member or loved one that struggled with substance abuse. This is not a one-off.”

The lawsuit includes a rough timeline of Bobby’s final moments.

On March 13, 2022 around 7:30 p.m., sheriff’s deputies Matthew Kasbaum and Quentin Lee (who are defendants in the suit) were called to a convenience store in Eagletown which was closed and under construction.

A dispatcher told the officers that Bobby ran through the back door of the business while contractors worked, and that he smashed the front door’s glass and ran onto a nearby highway. According to the dispatcher, Bobby tried to stop a semi on the road but then jumped onto a woman’s car. She picked him up and subsequently brought him back to the store’s parking lot.

Soon after, contractors on scene were fighting with Bobby and hogtied him. In a statement to authorities after the incident, Kasbaum said he found Bobby shackled and lying face down on the pavement. He handcuffed Bobby and saw that his “wrist and feet [and] his hands were turning purple from the tightness of the straps” from the construction workers.

Garrett told The Daily Beast that video from the convenience store “was somehow inadvertently deleted in between when the corner store turned it over to the sheriff’s department and we requested it. Somehow magically deleted, you know what I mean?”

The lawsuit says Lee and Kasbaum removed the straps and conducted a patdown search. As cops worked, the contractors—described as “vigilantes” in the filing—made comments about Bobby “regarding taking his money and kicking him in his head.”

In his statement, Kasbaum said, “For [Bobby’s] protection at that point, I wanted to get him into the unit as quickly as possible to de-escalate the anger towards him from the large crowd around us.” Kasbaum said Bobby was brought to the back seat of Lee’s truck.

Mark Hannah, a game warden with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, arrived on scene around this time after a neighbor allegedly warned him that there was a “huge fight” at the corner store. Hannah, who is a defendant in the suit, asked if the cops needed assistance, and Kasbaum asked him to locate the vehicle which had initially dropped Bobby off near the convenience store.

The lawsuit says Hannah, who could not locate the car, would later tell authorities that he returned to find Bobby screaming inside Lee’s truck. “He was also causing the truck to rock back and forth,” Hannah noted. “Upon EMS arrival, Kasbaum and Lee asked me to assist them in getting [him] out of the truck. Once Kasbaum opened the door, [Bobby] was yelling “Help me! They are going to kill me!”

The EMS personnel and cops on scene shared “differing accounts” of what happened next, the lawsuit alleges.

Kasbaum claimed that when he opened the truck door, Bobby “spun his feet around and attempted to kick out of the door.” He said he was able to pin Bobby “in the door jam of the back seat” of the vehicle. For his part, Lee noted that a struggle ensued because Bobby tried to exit the patrol vehicle while handcuffed.

Despite these statements, another deputy, Richard Williamson, noted in his report that one of the cops, along with Hannah, “asked Barrick several times to exit the vehicle.”

Meanwhile, one man who worked as a part-time fireman and part-time EMT reported that “the law enforcement officers asked [Bobby] several times to peacefully exit the vehicle, to which [Bobby] yelled ‘help’ and ‘they are trying to kill me’ at EMS” as cops “extracted” him.

Soon after the deputies became physical with Bobby, they turned off their body cameras.

Bobby and Barbara Barrick with her daughter.

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The lawsuit says that Lee claimed “Kasbaum’s video was disengaged accidentally,” and that he had turned his off before retrieving Bobby from the truck. Another responding officer, Deputy Kevin Storey, allegedly “did not engage his video in whole during the active resistance.”

Kasbaum or another deputy on scene had “instructed the other officers to deactivate all cameras,” the complaint alleges.

Once the cameras were off, Kasbaum and Lee allegedly tased Bobby while he was in handcuffs four times and yanked him from the truck with his feet. As a result, Bobby fell face down in the parking lot, the lawsuit says.

Kasbaum, Lee, Storey, and Hannah are accused in the lawsuit of dragging Bobby from the truck and mounting his back and applying force to his lower extremities.

The officers continued to “put substantial or significant pressure” on Bobby’s back while he was in a prone position and put their body weight on his upper torso. They also attempted or threatened to use pepper spray on him, the lawsuit alleges.

An EMT on scene said that while cops applied additional restraints, Bobby stopped breathing. She “felt for a pulse and did not find one,” the complaint says, adding that Bobby then experienced “seizure like activity.”

The sheriff’s department, according to Garrett, never called Barbara to tell her that Bobby was being transported to the hospital; instead, she learned about it through Bobby’s relatives who live in the county after someone notified them they heard it on the police scanner.

Until she saw the video, Barbara only knew that her husband died in police custody and of cardiac arrest. She was unaware of the sheriff’s department’s response.

Garrett told The Daily Beast that he hopes state and federal law enforcement “continue to investigate this matter,” especially because the sheriff didn’t contact the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) as required by statute to investigate in-custody deaths.

“This thing has just languished for a year,” Garrett said. “I’ve been calling the state, the feds. They never really tell you what they’re doing, but I believe they’re doing something now.”


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