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Bullet-resistant vehicle part of security increase for state prisons director following threats

Aug 3, 2014 | by Lynn Powell

The ODOC has increased security for its new director, Robert Patton, following disturbing phone calls and emails after a botched execution.The agency recently spent $32,627 for a bullet-resistant sport utility vehicle with tinted windows, according to records provided by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which approved the purchase. Additional items including a light package and radio brought the total to $40,587,

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has increased security for its new director, Robert Patton, following disturbing phone calls and emails after a botched execution.

The agency recently spent $32,627 for a bullet-resistant sport utility vehicle with tinted windows, according to records provided by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which approved the purchase.

Additional items including a light package and radio brought the total to $40,587, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

“After speaking directly with the Department of Corrections, there is a definite concern due to specific threats against the life of the Director of the Department of Corrections related to the recent execution case,” according to a May 22 email from Terry Zuniga, OMES state fleet manager, sent to another administrator.

The threatening emails were turned over to the agency’s Inspector General office. The results are not known. However, the phone calls could not be traced and they were more threatening, according to Jerry Massie, Department of Corrections spokesman.

Patton is currently being escorted by bodyguards, according to Zuniga’s email.

“I cannot in good conscience put him at risk,” Zuniga wrote. “As a result, Fleet will approve this request.”

According to documents, members of the Department of Corrections Office of Inspector General serve as security and drive the vehicle, which is equipped with ballistic panels, when Patton travels.

Massie said four members of the staff underwent security training. The cost for travel and lodging was $2,710, Massie said.

He declined to discuss the make and model of the vehicle or specifics of the director’s security detail.

“We feel like that would compromise the security of the director,” Massie said.

He stressed that Patton does not have 24-hour security every day, just when he travels.

Patton was named director in January following the resignation of Justin Jones from the agency plagued by staffing shortages, crowded prisons and inadequate funding.

Patton was serving as a division director of operations for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

On April 29, the state botched the execution of Clayton Lockett, who was sentenced to die for the killing of Stephanie Neiman.

His execution was halted after he began writhing, mumbling and trying to rise from the gurney. Preliminary results of an autopsy sought by his attorneys indicated the IV was not properly inserted. He apparently died of a heart attack.

The botched execution drew international attention and focused the spotlight on lethal injection. The state is conducting an investigation.

Tom Clements, Colorado Department of Corrections executive director, was shot and killed at his home on March 19, 2013.

“It raised the awareness level for directors around the country when that happened,” Massie said.
 

 

Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465