Police shooting protest

Protesters raise fists and signs outside the Lavish Lounge, 1015 SW Park, Friday morning as they protest the Jan. 17 shooting death of Zonterious Johnson, 24, by police. 

Lawton police have released updated information in Sunday morning’s police shooting death of a 24-year-old man at a local event center.

The shooting prompted a contingent of the victim’s family and friends to hold a protest outside the police station Friday morning.

Zonterious Johnson drew his weapon and faced a police officer and, after being told to drop the weapon, declined, according to a statement Friday from Lawton Police Chief James T. Smith. That’s when the initial gunshot was fired by police. Investigators have not said how many times Johnson was shot.

The fatal shooting is under investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI), which is tasked with the investigation since it is a police-related incident.

Smith said that initial review of the incident “suggests applicable policies and procedures were followed.” However, the OSBI, an independent and third-party agency, will offer its final analysis to the District Attorney’s office upon completion of its investigation.

“The incident that resulted in the loss of life of Zonterious Johnson on Jan. 17 is one that our community is processing and grieving together,” Smith said in a statement Friday. “Under any circumstances, the loss of life is tragic for all involved.”

The police chief offered condolences for those affected by the shooting. He said the City of Lawton and Lawton Police Department “are fully committed to understanding all the facts and circumstances leading up to this incident.”

“Per policy, I cannot offer details in regard to ongoing investigations, but I do ask the community and affected loved ones for patience and understanding as this process takes place,” Smith said. “Misinformation can further divide us.”

Police were conducting a compliance check around 3:30 a.m. Jan. 17 at the Lavish Lounge, 1015 SW Park, and, according to Smith, officers observed “a significant number of vehicles in the parking lot outside of the building and a significant number of people inside the building.”

While inside the building conducting the check, shots were heard being fired from outside the building, Smith said.

The venue owner, Seth Fleming, has told The Constitution that he was at the venue and Johnson was celebrating his 24th birthday when gunfire erupted. He said the club was closed to the public when events unfolded. He said that the gunfire came from police inside the lounge. He also said that a second round of a rubber bullet was fired inside by an officer.

Smith said the shots were not fired by Lawton police officers, inside or outside the building and that no rubber bullets were fired.

On Friday morning, between two and three dozen protesters gathered outside the Lawton Police Department to protest the shooting. The group moved to the Comanche County Courthouse where they began honking their car horns en masse before moving back to the Lavish Lounge to rally with signs and fists raised.

Jan Johnson, grandmother of the victim, said Friday her group was seeking answers without violence.

See The Sunday Constitution for exclusive content regarding the shooting investigation and Friday’s protest.

Along with being the columnist of Soundemonium Musaic, Scott Rains is also a police, fire, Native Affairs and roller derby reporter for The Lawton Constitution.

You can email him at: scott.rains@swoknews.com.