Two former Lawton police officers accused of shooting and killing a Lawton man in December 2021 may be headed back to work.
Lawton police officers Nathan Michael Ronan and Robert Leslie Hinkle were fired in January 2022 after fatally shooting Quadry Malik Sanders in December 2021. Both have been charged with first-degree manslaughter and are awaiting a preliminary hearing in Comanche County District Court.
The two responded to a call of an armed hostage situation and protective order violation against Quadry Malik Sanders at 1806 NW Lincoln. The police incident database showed Sanders had a history of resisting officers.
Body camera video shows Sanders step back behind a refrigerator outside the home while being ordered to continue coming forward with his hands raised. He was still considered armed at that time, arbitrators determined. After stepping behind the refrigerator, Sanders lowered his hands and was told again to show them. With a ball cap in his right hand, Sanders was seen shifting it to his left hand.
Sanders was then seen moving his hands toward his pants pocket. Arbitrators determined Hinkle thought the hand movements were aggressive. Hinkle fired multiple rounds as Sanders began to raise his right hand. Sanders fell backward to the ground and his hands appeared to the officers to be behind his back. He continued moving his hands as if reaching for something, and was still considered armed even after being struck by the first volley of bullets. The officers yelled for him to “quit reaching.”
When he didn’t comply, Hinkle and Ronan simultaneously opened fire, again striking Sanders. According to the State Medical Examiner’s autopsy report, 12 bullet wounds to the upper and lower body killed Sanders. Ballistics testing showed that 11 wounds came from Hinkle’s gun and one from Ronan’s.
Hinkle then dragged Sanders from where he was as officers went inside to clear the home.
Last week, arbitrators found the City of Lawton had not established that the two officers used excessive or unreasonable force.
Hinkle and Ronan were terminated by the City of Lawton on Jan. 7, 2022.
The arbitration decision followed separate arbitration hearings with witness testimony, exhibits and body camera videos. Hinkle’s hearings were Nov. 8-10, 2022, and Ronan’s from Dec. 7-9, 2022.
The awards call for the reinstatement of the former officers to the Lawton Police Department after two different arbitrators found the pair acted within their training and department protocols.
The awards call for the reinstatement of Ronan 30 days from the awards date, but do not specify a return date for Hinkle. If reinstated, both men will receive back pay for the time they were unemployed, according to the statement.
The decisions aren’t official yet, however. Lawton city officials may still appeal the decisions and are reviewing options. According to a statement released last week by the City of Lawton, officials acknowledged the decision. Under existing Oklahoma law, arbitration awards are legally binding and therefore require the City’s compliance unless successfully appealed.
“While City Officials disagree with the awards and are disappointed with the outcome, it is important for citizens to understand that arbitration proceedings are strictly administrative in nature and that they are limited to administrative violations; and that both former officers remain under indictment for the shooting death of Mr. Sanders,” according to the statement.
The City of Lawton is weighing its options in appealing the ruling.
Acting City Manager John Ratliff said on Tuesday there will be a special city council meeting next week to address the arbitrator’s ruling.
“The City is disappointed in the decision and is weighing its options,” he said.
The arbitrators’ decision has no impact on the criminal legal case against the men. Ronan and Hinkle were charged in Comanche County District Court in May 2022 with counts of first-degree manslaughter.