The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) is investigating a Sunday morning shooting by Lawton police that left a local man dead while he was celebrating his birthday.
Investigators reported that Zonterious Johnson, 24, died from gunshot wounds.
Officers from LPD were conducting a reported bar check around 3:30 a.m. at Lavish Lounge, 1015 SW Park, early Sunday morning when shots were reported fired outside and at the club, according to the OSBI. Investigators said at least one bullet hit the outside of the building.
Officers inside the club reacted and got into a foot pursuit that lasted several blocks before police fired on the fleeing suspect, the OSBI stated. The club owner said the shooting happened at least three block away. Police fired on Johnson and he died at a local hospital, according to investigators. No other injuries were reported.
A gun was recovered at the scene, according to the OSBI.
While the incident remains under investigation, the OSBI is not releasing further information.
It is unclear how many officers fired their weapons.
LPD policy is for officers involved in a shooting to be placed on paid administrative leave pending the completion of an investigation.
Club owner Seth Fleming said 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.
“The lounge had nothing to do with any of this,” he said. “We were already closed at this time.”
Fleming said the club had all its paperwork up to date and that the venue didn’t run afoul of the law.
“And then, whatever happened outside happened,” he said.
Fleming said on Sunday that the bar had opened at midnight and that officers told him if everything was shut down by 2 a.m., he would be all right. He said when officers came into the club around 3:30 a.m., they were carrying their rifles and there were a large number of officers with marked cars parked outside the club.
It was on their way out that gunfire and all the chaos happened, he said. He believes the police instigated the escalation of the incident that happened several blocks away from the lounge.
“We’ve only been open for what, a little bit, and this is only my third event,” Fleming said. “I call it harassment. I don’t think people complained; I think it was, you know, just a show of force.”
On Monday, Fleming told The Constitution that he believes the gunfire came first from an officer inside the club and not from outside as reported by the OSBI. He said the bullet hole in a window appeared to line up near where Johnson, who was outside at that point, was standing. When the young man took off running, the venue owner said, it was to avoid gunfire directed at him.
Fleming also believes a rubber bullet was fired from an officer into a wall inside the venue, as well.
“I never heard anybody shooting outside,” he said. “I didn’t know anybody got shot until about 7 a.m.”
Lawton police have directed all inquiries to the OSBI. If confirmed, this would be the first death by homicide reported in the city limits in 2021.
The OSBI has reported that the case remains under investigation.
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: email@example.com.