Federal judge grants summary judgment in lawsuit

May 3—A federal judge granted summary judgement in favor of law enforcement officers and agencies in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by family of a McAlester man who officers fatally shot in 2019.

U.S. District Judge John F. Heil III granted summary judgement in favor of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, OHP Troopers Garret Gray and James McKee, and the city of McAlester.

The suit was filed in federal court by the family of Mark Anson Schoggins, who Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troopers fatally shot July 17, 2019, during a pursuit that ended at the intersection of South Third Street and South Avenue in McAlester.

The Schoggins family sought more than $75,000, court costs, and attorney fees for the pain, suffering, and mental anguish and states the family has been damaged in pecuniary loss "and more importantly grief and loss of companionship of the children and parents."

Heil's decision came two weeks after U.S. Magistrate Judge Gerald L. Jackson recommended the district judge grant the summary judgements.

Schoggins was accused of stealing two bottles of vodka from a local liquor store and was stopped by a McAlester police officer before he fled.

District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan said the shooting was justified following a nearly three-month investigation, claiming Schoggins had more than 10 opportunities to prevent "this tragedy from occurring."

The suit named the state of Oklahoma/Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the city of McAlester, and OHP Troopers Gray and McKee in their individual capacity, claiming the parties violated the constitutional rights of Schoggins which resulted in his death because OHP and the city of McAlester "failed to properly train their officers in the use of force and arrest procedures."

Jackson wrote in his recommendation that deadly force was justified due to the "totality of the circumstances" and that he found "no violation of a constitutional right." The judge also ruled Gray and McKee "should be granted qualified immunity" after the lawsuit did not establish a violation of constitutional rights against Schoggins.

"The evidence is clear that, after a five-minute high-speed chase littered with collisions and property damage, at the time Gray and McKee fired their weapons, officers had an imminent need to confront and stop Plaintiff and that his conduct had created a risk of harm to both officers and citizens with no indication that the danger had abated or would abate without intervention," Jackson wrote in his recommendation.

Court records show no settlement was reached in the case during a court-ordered settlement conference held in February.

Heil dismissed the claims in the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning the claims in the lawsuit can not be filed again with the court.