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Officer reinstated after shooting but not back on the job
By Meghan McCormick
May 15, 2009 02:24 am
An arbitrator has ruled that a Norman police officer who was fired last fall after he shot a naked man who allegedly tried to run over him should have his job
reinstated with full back salary.
Norman Master Police Officer John Terry said he learned about arbitrator Pedro Molina's decision April 29. However, Terry said his status with the department hasn't
changed. He is ready to return to work but says he can't get the city attorney to return his calls.
"They violated my due process rights in several ways and it was ordered that I be reinstated immediately," Terry said.
A message left for City of Norman attorney Jeff Bryant was not returned.
Tony G. Puckett, who represented the City of Norman at the arbitration hearing, said the City of Norman takes any discharge of employees very seriously, particularly
when it involves conduct that results in the shooting of a civilian.
"The arbitration decision did not address the conduct of the officer," Puckett said. "The arbitration decision was based on a technicality and the arbitrator's findings. The
city is reviewing its options regarding the decision."
Puckett said he believed that Terry or his Fraternal Order of Police representative was informed on how the City of Norman feels about the ruling.
When asked if the City planned to appeal Molina's decision, Puckett said, "I'm not in a position to answer that yet."
Terry said he was fired Sept. 22, 2008, in regard to actions he took responding to a call July 26 at an apartment complex on Creekdale Avenue.
"We received a report that there was an indecent exposure at an apartment complex," Terry said. "The reporting party reported that the naked man put his clothes back
on and left in a car. On our way over there, they said he drove off in the car."
Terry said he was sent to check out the situation on Creekdale Drive. At about the same time, Terry was told the license plate on the vehicle he was looking for came
back to a stolen vehicle reported in Calera.
"When I got over there, I drove through the parking lot and I stumbled across the car that was dark. I couldn't tell the exact make and model," he said.
Terry said he stepped out of his patrol car and walked over to the vehicle. He could see the naked man, later identified as Sang Van Nguyen lying down in the front seat.
"Once I saw him and he saw me, I took my gun out and started giving him commands," Terry said.
The officer said he walked around the back of the vehicle, confirmed the license tag and called for backup.
"He (Nguyen) started the car, he put it in reverse, tried to run over me," Terry said. "I attempted to call for backup."
Terry said be broke out the driver's side back window and Nguyen continued to drive the vehicle in reverse. Terry then broke the driver's side front window.
"My thinking was that he was really going to hurt someone if I let him leave that parking lot," Terry said. "He jumped over a couple of curbs with me still attached to
the vehicle, Once he hit the street and started to accelerate, I shot him once. He went 25 yards down the street and stopped the car."
Terry said he received some scratches and minor cuts. The man Terry shot, Sang Van Nguyen, 38, was taken by ambulance to Norman Regional Hospital and treated
for his injuries.
Cleveland County prosecutors charged Nguyen Aug. 8, 2008, with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
He was arrested and booked into the Cleveland County Detention Center. A Cleveland County Sheriff's Department employee said Nguyen was listed in CCDC
custody, but he is being housed at the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center in Shawnee.
According to court records, Nguyen faces trial June 1 in Cleveland County District Court on the charges.
Terry said he was surprised by the firing last September.
"I hadn't had any citizen complaints prior to this," he said. "I only had two citizen actions and one was for three minor traffic accidents in a six-month period."
According to the City of Norman's contentions listed in the arbitrator's report, "there was 'just cause' to have terminated the Grievant's recent employment with the City
of Norman for violation of NPD policy number 318.IV.L-4 misfeasance performance of authorized duties, tasks, responsibilities in an improper and negligent manner
on September 22, 2008, after Board of Inquiry held on August 25, 2008 determined that the circumstances of the incident on July 26, 2008 regarding the use of force:
Officer involved shooting."
The City of Norman also contended Terry was removed from the department because, "the elements of misfeasance pertain to the fact that the Grievant engaged in a
suspect attempted to perform an extrication on a subject in a moving vehicle, contrary to the training he received and was provided by the Norman Police Department.
Therefore, the Grievant's actions directly led to the use of deadly force on the individual."
Terry said he's been a Norman police officer for eight years and was on the SWAT team for seven years. He also teaches vehicle extrication for the State of Oklahoma.
Terry said he filed the grievance Sept. 22, 2008.
Molina held an arbitration hearing Feb. 25 and March 9 at Norman City Hall. Both sides presented their cases.
Molina awarded his decision April 28, according to his report.
"It was clear to the Arbitrator, that the Grievant was denied due process in the issuance of discipline. Under these given circumstances, having found that the Grievant
was denied due process, the Arbitrator will not rule on the merits and sustain this Grievance. As a result, I hereby find that the City of Norman did not have just cause to
have terminated the Grievant on September 22, 2008," Molina said in his findings.
The report continued, "The Grievant will be reinstated immediately, made whole of any losses and benefits; as a result of this termination."
"Fifteen days ago, the arbitrator gave his decision, and it was that I would be reinstated immediately and made whole in every aspect," Terry said.
Terry said he and his attorney have tried to contact the City of Norman.
"They are refusing any calls from the FOP, and they will not allow me to go back to work and are refusing to comply with the decision," Terry said.
He said he just wants to find out either if the City of Norman plans to appeal the decision, or when he can return to work.
"They are basically refusing to respond," he said.
Terry said he has a wife and three children ages 7, 9 and 12 to support. When he was let go from NPD, he took a job as a substitute teacher for Norman Public Schools.
He said he expects that income to cease in about two weeks when the school year ends.
"For now, I guess I'm looking for a job. I should be employed by the Norman Police Department," Terry said.
Meghan McCormick 366-3539 [email protected]


To the Honorable Cindy Rosenthal, Mayor of the City of Norman, Oklahoma, and the distinguished members of The City
of Norman City Council:

We, the undersigned legal voters and residents of the City of Norman, within the State of Oklahoma, respectfully request the immediate reinstatement of Master Patrol Officer John Terry as prescribed by the decision of Pedro Molina,Federal Arbitrator, which is a binding agreement entered into by The City of Norman and the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 122, on behalf of MPO Terry.

We further request an independent investigation into the facts and circumstances leading up to this decision, specifically the policy violations of Chief Phil Cotten, Major Kent Ritchie, and Captain Glen Dobry. It is our understanding that the actions of these administrators were found to be in violation MPO Terrys due process rights under the Constitution of the United States. Accordingly, Norman Police Department policy requires all discipline to be assessed by the Chief of Police and it is our contention that this matter cannot be resolved internally. Therefore, we feel that an independent investigation is not only warranted, but prudent for the City of
Norman and its citizens, and each for himself / herself says:

I have personally signed this petition; I am a legal resident of
the City of Norman, State of Oklahoma, and my residence or post office are correctly written after my name.

The time for filing this petition expires ninety days from May 20, 2009.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

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