Does it every seem like when it rains it pours?
That is the kind of day that one Missouri man was having when he rolled through Woodward after attending the funeral of his beloved aunt In Laverne last weekend and was stopped by a Woodward County deputy.
This week, however, Brent Easley took the time, upon finally returning to his home in Missouri late Wednesday, to write to the Woodward News in an effort to send a thank you to Woodward County Sheriff Kevin Mitchell and his deputies who he said, “Went above and beyond the call” to help him.
Easley’s ordeal actually began around New Year’s Eve when he learned that his beloved Aunt Eula Bozarth, 98, of Laverne had died.
“My aunt passed away on New Year’s Eve,” Easley said. “She took me in when I was a kid and gave me a place to live and food and asked nothing in return. She was a devoted Christian lady of 98 years-old, and so me and my brother went to her funeral in the Panhandle of Oklahoma (Laverne).”
After the funeral, like anyone who lives hundreds of miles away, Easley said he didn’t realize he was getting a little “heavy-footed” and on his way out of Woodward. So heading east out of town on 412, he was clocked by Woodward Deputy Kasey Shaver going 88 in a 65. It was 6 a.m.
Now, for a lot of people, getting stopped for driving 88 miles per hour on a 65 mph road could be where things could really start to seem like they were going off the rails. And for Brent Easley, the beginning of the encounter hinted that things might, indeed go badly.
“So he pulled me over, which I deserved,” Easely said. “Well, he asked me when was the last time I had a ticket and I told him probably 20 years ago. He said, ‘Do you have any weapons?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I have a pistol in the console.’ He takes that to his truck. Then he comes back asked me to step out of my truck and asked for my brother’s I.D. and I knew this was not good.”
Come to find out, in August of 1999, Easley had received a seat belt citation in Canadian County from an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper. He was in the middle of a move to Missouri and things got hectic and he said he simply forgot all about it.
But what he learned about Oklahoma is, the “Bear” never forgets.
Because nearly 18 years later, the unpaid seatbelt ticket was coming back to haunt him at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning on a simple, wide-open stretch of highway heading east of Woodward.
“Well, he said there was this warrant for my arrest out of Oklahoma City for a seatbelt ticket,” Easley said. “Well, I didn’t panic. I just thought, well, I’ll just go pay it and be on my way. Well, they take me to Woodward jail where they inform me that Oklahoma City wants to extradite me. So they dress me in my orange suit and lock me up. I asked, what about my meds for diabetes and other stuff.”
Easley said the deputies were concerned about his health and wanted to help him and so they decided that if he promised to pay the ticket first thing in the morning (Monday morning) when they could accept payment on the ticket, they would allow him to leave the jail.
For Easley, this was no small thing. Recently life had just been going a little badly with some health news that wasn’t too swift and the loss of several loved ones. But the tough times didn’t blind him to the fact that sometimes life cuts you a break and this time that break came in the form of some good-hearted Woodward County deputies.
“I was so glad to hear that my people had done that,” said Woodward Sheriff Kevin Mitchell. “I tell all my employees all the time that we have to treat every one with care and respect. Sometimes people make bad decision and sometimes have to go to jail. But that doesn’t necessarily make them bad or a criminal.”
Mitchell said at his staff meetings, he stresses the treatment of people with human respect and dignity and also stresses the importance of taking care of a prospective inmate’s medical needs.
Mitchell said these are the situations where a law enforcement officer or deputy, while checking into the facts thoroughly ahead of time, can exercise some common sense and err on the side of compassion. Not all situations lend themselves to that kind of decision, but in this case, Mitchell said his deputy, Shaver and his jailers who also helped, Cory Barnett and Tiffany Heatwole, made the right call in helping Easley solve his problem, keeping him out of jail.
Mitchell himself remembers all too well from his own past service, that there are some situations that he has run across where the most important action he took was by taking the least action he could.
“A long time ago, when I was working in Cash and the most silly warrant I ever came across that I had to go out and serve was a warrant for not having enough life preservers on their boat,” Mitchell said. “Obviously they had been cited and had forgotten to pay. But it was the law and these don’t go away.”
For Easley’s part, he was just glad he messed up in the right town.
“I would just like to thank the Woodward Sheriff’s Department for going above and beyond their duty to call Canadian County and get this resolved for me,” Easley said. “And thank you to all the Woodward law enforcement.”
Rachael Van Horn writes for the Woodward News.