Law Enforcement & Fire
(photos by Crystal Larabee)
A fierce fire destroyed the Okmulgee County Homeless Shelter (OCHS) Thrift Store located at 211 W 5th St in Okmulgee Sunday morning. The fire was initially reported around 2 a.m when the Okmulgee Fire and Police was dispatched to the fire. Morris, Henryetta and Dewar Fire Departments came in for backup. The building was unoccupied and there were no injuries otherwise.
Crystal Larabee, a resident that lives in a loft apartment downtown at Park on the Square reported waking up shortly after the fire started, “I woke up and I could smell smoke, I walked out into the living room and saw all the lights flashing.”
The building was totally destroyed as it continued to burn in to the morning hours and firemen fought to contain the fire. The area was evacuated due to hazardous gas lines around the location including 19 residents who were staying at the actual homeless shelter on the Northeast corner of the block.
The OCHS Director Brenda Brewer said she was finally called and arrived at the scene around 4:30 a.m., “This will be devastating for the shelter and for Okmulgee County in general. First of all, two people have lost a job and second, we provide so much to those in need of household items, clothes, backpacks for kids, plus a revenue to keep the shelter going to care for those in need.”
Ironically the shelter is a major source that assist those in the Okmulgee area who experience home fires.
Brewer was saddened but optimistic saying they can only hope to find a new location and pray the community will help them rebuild. “We will rebuild somehow, things were going so well, but we will not give up. We will recover.”
Brewer is unsure of a calculated number in damages right now, but thousands of dollars in donated items were destroyed, "We are just so thankful that it was not the actual shelter, that would be much more devastating." The building was owned and fully paid for by OCHS.
Brewer said all emergency respondents did an excellent job and she wanted to compliment them on how well they handled the situation. “We are so fortunate to have these people and the job they do. The firemen from Okmulgee and all departments, the police, they were all great!”
Brewer said she was told by authorities that there appeared to be no break-in or foul play at this point.
The State Fire Marshall will come in and examine the cause of the fire and make a final report.
Photos below by Allen Gardner - ONN
Okmulgee County Sheriff's Office arrested a third party today in connection with the Twin Hills school bus theft and arson. Devin Lee Riggins, 18, was arrested at his parents home in Bixby. He was booked in to the Okmulgee county jail on complaints of grand larceny of an automobile and second degree arson.
There is still one juvenile wanted in this case that has yet to be picked up.
Henryetta Fire officials say they are investigating this mornings Pet Food plant fire as an arson. One 45-year-old Tulsa man, Christopher Wren, was arrested today for questioning.
Wren was hanging around near the Burlington Northern railroad tracks next to the fire scene. Police discovered he had several items in his possession that were later identified as being from the Lacour-Dalton office.
Following an interview with Wren, he was charged with trespassing, two counts of second degree burglary, knowingly concealing stolen property and arson. His connection with the fire is still being investigated.
(Photos by Allen Gardner - ONN)
Officials will begin trying to determine the cause of an early morning fire on Monday that destroyed a pet food manufacturing business in Henryetta.
Henryetta and Dewar Fire Depts. responded to the fire around 5:30 a.m this morning where the LaCour-Dalton at 201 West Broadway. Officials said the first firefighters to arrive found fire and heavy smoke through the roof of the single-story mostly metal building.
It took firefighters about 45 minutes to bring the fire under control. They are continuing to monitor the building for hotspots inside the building.
The fire destroyed the business.
Photo by ALlen Gardner - ONN
The Okmulgee County Sheriffs Office was called to a fire located in the Preston Water department that caught fire last night. Officials said a citizen saw the fire and called it in around 3:37 a.m. and shortly after the building went ablaze. Preston FIre Dept. arrived on scene and were able to put the fire out, but the building suffered heavy damaged.
Officials said that it was reported that this months water billing that effects Water a district 2 had been processed.
The fire is under investigation by the Fire Marshall and Okmulgee County Sheriff's office.
Okmulgee Fire Chief Bruce Swearingen and his department are getting enthused as the build on the new pumper truck is under way. The Okmulgee City Council approved the new truck for the Okmulgee Fire Department back in March.
Mayor Steven Baldridge was proud to show off photos of the new equipment that is in the process of being built right now. He stated there is a need for two trucks, but very happy that Okmulgee Fire will son be equipped with this one.
A truck committee consisting of Fire Chief Swearingen and members of the Fire Department worked over the past year to determined specific needs for quality fire service in Okmulgee. The unanimous decision was that a Ferrera Pumper would be the best addition to the department as the current trucks are out of date ranging from 15-25 years old.
The truck, a 2016 custom top mount Ferrara Pumper is being bought on a lease-purchase with an agreement with Mabrey Bank who offered the lowest interest rate at 2.65% for a 7 year note. The interest rate is guaranteed for a 12 month period since it will take up to 10 months to build.
The Fire Chief said they would not be selling the existing pumpers. “We are going to keep them all, as it stands right now; we don’t have a back-up pumper if something goes down” Swearingen said, “We will be better to keep what we have right now.” He also advised that they will be taking the equipment off of Engine 2 to outfit the new truck and will repurpose Engine 2 into a rescue truck.
Sheriff Investigators have made arrest in the Twin Hills Bus Theft case. Wednesday Okmulgee County Sheriff's Office investigators located the two school buses that were stolen from the school district in the Spanish Peaks area near Liberty Mounds. Both buses had been set on fire and were a total loss.
Sheriff Investigators processed the scene locating evidence from the burned buses leading them to multiple suspects from the Bixby area. By evening the 25th, investigators were able to locate the suspects and arrested Joshua Coppedge and Garrett Raynor who was booked into the Okmulgee County jail on charges of grand larceny, conspiracy, and arson.
Currently the investigation is ongoing and there are still two additional suspects including one juvenile. Additional arrest in this case are anticipated said officials.
Okmulgee County Sheriff Rice stated he would like to thank the community for the tips and support that came in on this case, "It shows that the irresponsible and evil acts of few is combatted by the good citizens who shine through," said Rice.
City of Okmulgee held a dedication ceremony for the new Okmulgee Police Dept. building on Wednesday Aug. 23 and welcomed the public to an open house and tours of the new facility located at 114 E. 7th. A new plaque officially adorns the side of the building stating the day the department building was established.
The department move took place in April once a lengthy remodel of the building took place after the building was purchased. The facility was officially occupied and in service on April 25, 2016.
The Okmulgee Chamber of Commerce christened the event with a ribbon cutting as Chief Joe Prentice cut the ribbon along side his daughters and grandchildren, Mayor Steven Baldridge and his wife Sidney, City Manager Roger Ballenger and Chamber Ambassadors.
Photos Provided and by Allen Garnder - ONN
Mayor Steven Baldrige and his wife Sidney (below)
Okmulgee County Sheriff’s Office has just confirmed that both Twin Hills school buses that were stolen early Wednesday morning have been recovered. The buses were burned and a total loss.
Sheriff Eddy Rice says the investigation continues.
Authorities are offering a $500 reward for anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of those responsible for vandalizing the school vehicles. Call the Okmulgee County Sheriff's Office at 918-740-1408
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Wednesday announced criminal charges against three individuals:
Robert Brandon Page, 40, of Muskogee, is charged with one felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. While working at Superior Linen Service, Inc., Page made a workers’ compensation claim after a cart he was pulling up a steep ramp rolled off a platform and injured his shoulder when he tried to stop it. Page was allegedly too hurt to work, and in a deposition, claimed he was also too injured to participate in his go kart racing hobby. However, evidence allegedly shows that Page was still participating in go kart racing, even lifting go karts.
If convicted, Page could face up to two years in prison and $1,000 in fines.
Brent Michael Baker, 40, of Enid, is charged with one felony count of obtaining money by false pretense. Baker is alleged to have issued certificates of insurance even though he is not licensed to sell insurance in Oklahoma, and obtained more than $1900 from a single family by issuing false certificates of insurance. The Oklahoma Insurance Department investigated the allegations after a complaint was submitted to the agency.
If convicted, Baker could face up to 10 years in prison and $5,000 in fines, as well as restitution.
William Dennis Mitchell, 52, of Sapulpa, is charged with one felony count of false claim for insurance. Mitchell is alleged to have bought automobile insurance the day after he backed his truck into a gas meter, and he then allegedly reported the accident as having occurred after he bought the insurance policy. A report detailing the gas leak stemming from the accident contradicts Mitchell’s insurance claim.
If convicted, Mitchell could face up to three years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
All three cases are being prosecuted by Workers’ Compensation, Social Security and Insurance Fraud Unit of the Attorney General’s Office. The unit investigates and prosecutes fraud on the part of claimants, doctors, attorneys and insurance companies. The unit also provides education and training about workers’ compensation fraud. To report workers’ compensation, social security or insurance fraud contact the Attorney General’s Office at (405) 521-3921 or visit the AG’s website at www.ok.gov/oag.