Tulsa is the New Ferguson |The Truth about the Death of Benny Longoria

False Reports to the Media, Suppressing Evidence, Refusing to take Witness Statements, Covering up a Possible Murder and Police Misconduct are some of the Horrifying Facts surrounding Benny Longoria’s death

By Cd Kirven, September 22, 2014.

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Photo: Benny Longoria’s memorial in Tulsa on 8-9-14

DALLAS — Last month’s news, from NewsOn6.com report titled; “Tulsa Police: Dallas Article About Death Of Gay Man Is ‘Falsefalsely reported facts about Benny Longoria’s death that need to be corrected. The news report claims that Tulsa Police maintain my story posted by the Dallas Voice on August 5, 2014 about the death of a gay man in Tulsa contains “false information.”

What are the Facts?’’

Tulsa Police insist Benny Longoria died of natural causes, Longoria’s doctor signed his death certificate, the family signed legal forms approving of his cremation and claim that I never talk to Tulsa police.

FACT: The Longoria family never approved of Benny’s cremation. A Tulsa County Commissioner signed the cremation approval form. The police requested the county commissioner’s signature and this was illegal. The signature was obtained after Longoria was cremated on 7-16-2014. As screenshot of an email below confirms, the approval form was sent by the Tulsa funeral home on 8-14-14 to Carmen Longoria.

 

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FACT: Longoria’s doctor never signed his death certificate. Amy Elliot, Chief Administrative Officer of the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office, confirmed that a doctor from their office signed it and they used Longoria’s old medical records to determine Benny’s cause of death almost two months after his demise. Benny died on 6-20-2014. The screenshot of confirms this fact. (Lou Chibbaro is a reporter from the Washington Blade)

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FACT: I spoke to Tulsa police on three-way with Elvia Longoria. Elvia wanted a witness and my cell phone was used for every conference call.  The screenshot of my phone records below confirms I talked on the phone to Sgt. Walker of Tulsa’s homicide department with Elvia Longoria.

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Why Would Police Knowingly Release False Reports?’’

Tulsa has a pompous history of municipal misconduct, which can make it difficult for justice to have clean hands. This is most especially true in a town plagued with allegations of police corruption. The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP), tracked police misconduct statistics from across the country. For a department its size, Tulsa ranked 3rd in the nation for police misconduct complaints.

“On a per capita basis,” Joshua Kline writes in his award winning exposé “Misconduct City” for This Land Press, “Tulsa far surpasses cities notorious for misconduct, such as Los Angeles, New York, Detroit and Philadelphia.”

Recent scandals have kept Tulsa officials stanchly defensive. They are painfully aware of the growing mistrust between the community and local law enforcement. Whether it’s objecting to the closure of Avalon (a Tulsa half-way house) where officers started an inmate fight club or the city council’s sloppy decision making on renaming a street that honors a Ku Klux Klan member or their disconcerting attempts to minimize unprecedented corruption payouts;  it is easy to see why an activists like me wasn’t welcome.

“The Tulsa Police Department is arguably the most embattled police force in the country,” Michael Mason writes in an accompanying editorial “The Seeds of Corruption”. “Rocked by a recent corruption scandal that has so far resulted in the dismissal or reduction of 32 criminal cases, at a taxpayer cost expected to run into the millions, the TPD is ensnared in an epic legal mess.”

But, once again the Tulsa police again find themselves explaining questionable conduct to another grieving family. No matter what the cause of Tulsa’s traditions of malfeasance, it has most definitely infiltrated the practices of those who have sworn to serve and protect. Mystery still surrounds Benny Longoria’s death and his family has been left with too many unanswered questions.

“I went to see my brother Benny in May of this year and he was fine. Several witnesses at the scene of his death said that there appeared to have been a struggle and they think they know who harmed him. Benny allowed this person to move in with him in order to help him. Benny argued with this man three days before he was found dead but police refuse to investigate… What would you do?” said Carmen Longoria, Benny’s sister.

Unexplained deaths and complaints about wrongdoing has become a thorn in the side of the Tulsa police. Once local authorities become impossible to differentiate from its criminals, then society has a serious problem.

Joe and Donna Turner felt the medical examiner’s ruling was inaccurate in their daughter Chanda Turner’s death. The medical examiner ruled she committed suicide so they paid for an independent autopsy which determined Chanda was murdered. The Turners collected 6,000 signatures for an initiative that led to a new law called; The Chanda Turner Act which allows families to appeal a loved one’s’ death certificate.

“Benny didn’t die of natural causes! His death certificate is wrong! The police do not have any physical evidence to prove that! No autopsy, no photos of Benny’s body, no blood test and no evidence from the scene of my brother’s death. That’s why my family wants a suspicious death investigation,” said Elvia Longoria, Benny’s sister.   “Tulsa police should have questioned Benny’s new roommate and other witnesses. My family requested witness interviews in our internal affairs compliant filed with Tulsa police. We love Benny and we need answers! ”

“Where is the U.S. Justice Department?”

Oklahoma NAACP President Anthony Douglas is calling for the U.S. Attorney General a federal investigation.  In his letter to Eric Holder, calls for additional agencies to investigate officer Daniel Holtzclaw, as well as any similar pattern of misconduct done by the department. I’ve personally helped the family make phone calls, emails and sent letters to several people within the Department of Justice and the FBI. A number of requests for help were sent to Zakery Tommey, Tony West, Eric Holder, the special litigation department and several people in the FBI. But, the family’s cries for help have been ignored by the Department of Justice.

According to in NPMSR’s types of police misconduct and terminology, there are two areas in which Benny Longoria’s family believe his rights were violated by Tulsa police:

  1.  Accountability – lack of investigation or accountability of policies and processes
  1.  Civil rights violations – violations of constitutional and privacy rights

“I’m not sure why Eric Holder or others in the Department of Justice are ignoring our requests for assistance, given Tulsa police’s history is worse than Ferguson’s but this could happen to another gay man or witnesses could be hurt. Why is that not important?” said Elvia Longoria.

I was recently asked why the imperiling dysfunction of the Tulsa Police Department would help prove what happen to Benny Longoria.

My response was that the backdrop of police impunity must be exposed in order to demonstrate the protracted decline of the police’s civic responsibility. The ties that bind the Longoria case to Tulsa’s endemic corruption are as impenetrable as its rapacious streets. Also, way too often victims are portrayed as villains to cover up for law enforcement’s devolving commitment to their duties as a public servant.

The timeline below depicts a recent surge in police violence and criminal activity.

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What happened on the Day Benny Died?’’

Fast forward to June 20, 2014, Benny Longoria’s was found dead in his Tulsa apartment. Tulsa police officer Brad Sherrill determined Longoria appeared to have died from natural causes.

Officer Sherril has no medical training so he called Longoria’s doctor. He allegedly obtained Longoria’s doctor’s contact information from his medication in order to get her to sign Longoria’s death certificate. This would allow police to classify Longoria’s death as an attended death so they could avoid an investigation. According to state law, a doctor must be present for an attended death classification.
Several witnesses at the scene of Longoria’s death claim they learned his HIV status from Officer Sherril.  Sherril encouraged witnesses to wipe their hands saying; “If you touched anything wipe your hands because this guy had AIDS.”

“My family was mortified that police violated my brother’s privacy!    Benny had HIV not AIDS and we wonder if his status played a role in the decision not to conduct an autopsy,” said Carmen Longoria.

What went Wrong?’’

The Longoria family discovered that Benny had passed away after a month long search. He had been dead for over a month. His sisters located Benny’s ashes but no one appears to know what happened to an apartment full of Benny’s belongings. They wanted a family keepsake or something to remember him.  No one in the police department or in the medical examiner’s office will identify the doctor who determined Benny Longoria’s cause of death. The Longoria family is afraid that they may never know what happened to their brother Benny.

Benny’s family wants to know who decided on 6/20/14:

  1. No autopsy
  2. No blood test
  3. No photos of body or scene
  4. No evidence taken from scene
  5. No medical examination of Benny’s body
  6. Police claim Benny died of natural causes (Ethanol abuse & HIV)
  7. You die from AIDS not HIV
  8. If there no blood test was done and no medical exam of his body was done then how was alcohol determined to be the cause of death?
  9. Why did his body go straight to the funeral home?

Why did this Happen?’’

Sergeant Dave Walker classified Benny’s death as an attended death but according to Oklahoma state law (Title 63. Chapter 1 Section 1-317 (d), a doctor is required to be in attendance at the time of death. Also, it’s required by state law that in the case of death by natural causes a physician is required to sign the death certificate within 24 hours and medical examiner within 48 hours of death. Benny’s cause of death discrepancies weren’t the first for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office.

“Enough’s enough,” says Steve Massey, a former district investigator for the medical examiner’s office.“It’s time for the agency to come up to standard and do what’s needed. For more than five years, we’ve reported on the deteriorating state of the agency and constant turmoil thrusting it into the spotlight.”

What is standing in the way of the Longoria family finding out the truth?   Any way you look at it, all questions lead to Tulsa police and the truth will need to be obtained from an external organization. Oklahoma law and federal statues have very clearly been broken by Tulsa police. There are ongoing pattern and practice violations that need to be investigated by the Department of Justice. We as a community can no longer afford to sit silently by while our community is publicly ridiculed and privately oppressed. For me this fight is very personal. I was asked by Dallas city council member Adam Merdrano to help Longoria family and I will fight for Benny as if was my own brother! Because that is who we are…a community and a family.  

By Cd Kirven
09/22/2014.


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