July 23, 2019 – Thorp determines deputies justified in fatal officer-involved struggle

Two Wagoner County deputies involved in a fatal struggle with a suspect returned to duty on July 19 after District Attorney Jack Thorp declined to file charges against them.

Thorp determined the deputies’ actions were justified after studying the investigation submitted by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation into the July 1 incident in which deputies Nick Orr and Kaleb Phillips encountered driver Jeffrey Krueger. The OSBI interviewed several witnesses and reviewed body camera video and other evidence.

“Oklahoma statute supports these deputies’ use of force when Jeffrey Krueger refused to comply with instructions and violently resisted arrest,” Thorp said. “While the use of force was justified in this case, there is no indication the deputies’ actions caused Krueger’s death.”

Phillips called Orr for assistance after witnessing Krueger driving erratically on Highway 169 near Highway 51 in Wagoner County. When Phillips signaled the vehicle to pull over, Krueger stopped in the center lane rather than on the right shoulder. The situation escalated when Krueger refused to show the deputy his hands.

Orr arrived to witness Krueger refusing to exit his vehicle. When Phillips pulled his service weapon and attempted to make an arrest, Krueger attacked the deputy and tried to take away his firearm. Orr stepped in to assist Phillips, and the pair struggled with Krueger for several minutes while they waited for additional backup.

In a display of what Orr described as “superhuman” strength, Krueger continued to fight, even after being shot multiple times with the deputies’ tasers. During the struggle, he was able to wrestle a taser away from one of the deputies, but was unable to stun them before they took the weapon back.

After waiting on the other side of the railroad tracks for a passing train, backup arrived just in time to see a paramedic helping Orr and Phillips get handcuffs on Krueger, who they noticed was not breathing normally. He was transported to an area hospital where he died in the emergency room.

The state medical examiner found a laceration on Krueger’s face, but no evidence he died as a result of his struggle with Orr and Phillips. A toxicology report is pending, but the initial determination is that Krueger died as a result of “excited delrium,” which is “characterized by agitation, aggression, acute distress and sudden death, and is typically associated with the use of drugs that alter dopamine processing,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

“The death of any human being is tragic,” Thorp said, “but these deputies have a duty to protect their community and return home, safe and unharmed, to their families every night. In my opinion, they discharged their duties to the letter of the law on July 1.”

Thorp will review the medical examiner’s final report to determine whether further action is warranted.

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Read the Tulsa World report.